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MALDINI - 35, and still hungry
26.7 || ART

Veteran AC Milan defender Paolo Maldini is still hungry for trophies and records - having recently celebrated his 35th birthday.

The man who made his Milan debut at the age of 16 this summer signed a contract that will keep him at the San Siro until June 2005.

If he sees out that deal, he will eclipse Dino Zoff's record of 21 seasons of top-flight Italian football and should beat his mark of 573 appearances in the domestic League.

In that time, Maldini has been a model professional.

His mistakes on the field have been collectors' items while he has been impeccably behaved off it.

And Maldini remains hungry for success despite a career when he has gorged on the most prestigious silverware in club football, although a top prize in the blue shirt of Italy always eluded him.

Maldini is one of six children of Cesare Maldini, a player in the AC Milan sides of the early 1960s that won several Serie A titles, two European Cups and one World Club Cup.

Cesare, assistant coach to Enzo Bearzot with the 1982 World Cup winning squad, went on to coach Italy in the 1998 World Cup and Paraguay in 2002.

Maldini made his first Serie A appearance in 1984-5 at the age of 16 when the club's fortunes were at a low ebb.

The likes of Luther Blissett and Ray Wilkins were Milan's foreign stars.

'Wilkins was a real personality,' said Maldini last year.

'He used to help the young players and top professionals never do that in Italy.'

During the late 1980s and the 1990s, few would argue that Maldini was the best defender in the world.

In 2000, he beat Zoff's record of Italian caps and when he quit last autumn after the unsuccessful World Cup, he had a record 125 caps for the Azzurri.

He played in four World Cups and four European Championships for his country.

He never won a trophy with Italy, but twice went agonisingly close.

In 1994, he was a member of the team that lost the World Cup final on penalties to Brazil.

Married to top Italo-Venezuelan model Adriana Fossa, Maldini is the father of two sons and lives quietly and modestly in Milan.

But unlike his father, he is unlikely to be in contention for any frontline football role when he eventually hangs up his boots.

'One thing is certain,' said Maldini last year. 'I will never be a coach'.

Only time will tell, Paolo.

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