Paolo Maldini is one of the greatest defenders of all time.
His reading of the game and timing of a tackle were of the highest order but his most impressive attribute was his longevity.
He played his first game for AC Milan at 16-years-old and his last game at 41-years-old.
In that time he played in an astonishing EIGHT European Cup/Champions League finals…
1989 — Milan 4 Steaua Bucharest 0
How’s this for a back four: Mauro Tassotti, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta, Paolo Maldini.
Clean sheet guaranteed from kick-off.
Milan’s front pairing of Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten bagged two goals each as the Italian giants easily dispatched their Romanian counterparts in front of 98,000 at the Nou Camp.
1990 — Milan 1 Benfica 0
A year later Maldini lined up along the same three defenders and kept another clean sheet on the big stage.
Frank Rijkaard bagged the winner midway through the second half meaning at just 21-years-old Maldini had two European Cup winners medals in his cabinet.
1993 — Milan 0 Marseille 1
Once again Milan fielded their reliable back four but this time they were breached and forced to chew on the unfamiliar taste of defeat.
A Marseille team featuring the likes of Fabien Barthez, Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps, Rudi Voller and Alen Boksic upset the odds in Munich.
They remain the only French winners in the competition’s history.
1994 — Milan 4 Barcelona 0
Maldini’s first European final at centre-back saw him neutralise the threat of Romario with supreme expertise.
The victory proved to be Desailly’s second triumph in as many years having joined from Marseille.
He scored the fourth goal to add to Daniele Massaro’s brace and Dejan Savicevic’s effort just after half-time.
This win is particularly significant in Maldini’s career as it hinted at continued success for Milan in the years above Baresi’s retirement.
1995 — Milan 0 Ajax 1
The biggest club game in the world became a regular feature in Maldini’s calendar when he started his third final in as many seasons in Vienna.
A supremely talented Ajax side ran out as winners when substitute Patrick Kluivert scored a winner five minutes before the final whistle.
2003 — Milan 0 Juventus 0 (Milan win 3-2 on penalties)
In the eight years since the defeat to Ajax, Maldini had established himself as possibly the most reliable defender in the world.
Only Costacurta remained from the old guard but Alessandro Nesta proved a fine partner at the back as Milan resisted Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet for 120 minutes.
Andriy Shevchenko scored the winning penalty and Maldini was named Man of the Match before lifting the trophy for the first time as captain.
2005 — Milan 3 Liverpool 3 (Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties)
You know all about this one already.
Maldini scored in the first minute and must have been dreaming of his fifth European crown at half-time with Milan 3-0 up.
But Steven Gerrard and co’s six-blitz swung momentum in Liverpool’s favour and from then on Merseyside glory was inevitable.
Even for Maldini, the epitome of composure, this defeat must have cut him deep.
2007 — Milan 2 Liverpool 1
Filippo Inzaghi’s double ensured Milan and Maldini were able to exorcise the demons of Istanbul.
At the age of 38 the great Italian indulged in the pleasure of continental glory for the fifth time, lifting the trophy for the second time as captain.
Paolo Maldini — the man with such a distinguished career that Champions League finals are just another date in the diary.