The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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In the name of the father

Milan: Hanging proudly on the wall at the headquarters of AC Milan is a black-and-white photograph showing the club’s captain holding aloft the European Cup.

The captain is Cesare Maldini and the venue is Wembley Stadium, scene of AC Milan’s 2-1 victory over Benfica in 1963.

It is an image that any football family would treasure but on Wednesday the Maldinis might be able to add a second such picture to their family album.

Forty years on from his father’s success, current Milan captain Paolo Maldini is 90 minutes away from holding up that huge Cup, again on English soil.

This time it is Manchester United’s Old Trafford that is the theatre to a unique dream.

Most sons of famous footballers are condemned to eternally playing in their father’s shadow with even their greatest successes compared with the achievements of another man, in another era.

As Italy’s most-capped player of all-time, the winner of six Italian titles and three European Cups, Paolo Maldini has long since passed that test however.

But it was the classy central defender Franco Baresi and current assistant coach Mauro Tassotti who raised the Cups in those three European triumphs and now Maldini is relishing the chance to have his own moment of glory.

“There have been some strange recurrences at important moments in my career,” Paolo Maldini said as he prepared for Wednesday’s final.

“It has happened a lot in my career and my life that I have found myself in the same situation as my father, after all I am doing the same job as him.

“I hope that once again my story and his will follow the same path,” said the Milan captain.

This year’s final is the first all-Italian affair and sees two teams with rich European pedigrees face each other but it was a different story 40 years ago.

Real Madrid had won the first five Cups, including a 3-2 extra-time win over Milan in 1958, and their domination was broken only by another famous side from the south of the continent — Benfica.

A year before they met Milan, Benfica had crushed Real 5-3 in one of the all-time great finals, the final two goals coming from their inspiration Eusebio.

But they met their match in a Milan side featuring the classy Gianni Rivera in attack and the tireless defensive midfield work of current Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni.

After Eusebio had opened the scoring, Milan’s Brazilian-born striker Jose Altafini struck twice after the break to ensure that Cesare Maldini made his way up to the royal box to claim the treasured trophy.

“I remember everything from that day,” said Cesare. “From the moment I entered Wembley, which provoked such an incredible emotion because it felt like you were entering a cathedral, right up until that moment when I raised the trophy,”

It was a moment that was at the centre of the football-filled childhood of Paolo Maldini. “That photograph was the clearest image I had of my father’s career because I never saw him play — he had finished before I was born,” says Paolo.

His father will be at Old Trafford on Wednesday hoping, for once, that he can do something Paolo was unable to do and see a Maldini lift the European Cup. “I am going to Manchester hoping Lady Luck is with me. After all 40 years on the captain of Milan is still called Maldini.”

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