With AC Milan facing bitter rivals Inter twice in two weeks shortly after domestic action resumes in Italy after the break for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, all-time Derby della Madonnina record appearance holder Paolo Maldini has reflected on the importance of the fixture.
Serie A fixtures resume on the January 4, and the Milanese giants face off in Saudi Arabia two weeks later to contest the Supercoppa Italiana Final, before a meeting at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on February 5 in a fixture that could have a huge impact on the Scudetto race.
Emotions of derby too much for Maldini
Although Maldini had learnt how to handle the emotions and atmosphere of a derby by the time he had completed his final and record-breaking 56th appearance, the former Rossoneri captain admitted he had initially struggled when thrust into the fixture as a youngster, but overall, has happy memories.
“On the pitch, I have beautiful and pleasant memories,” Maldini told Milan TV. “Having played more games than anyone in Milan, this is normal, as I would have had to have been injured several times not to have this record.”
“The derby, and other matches like Milan–Juventus or Milan–Napoli at that time, could give you a different emotional energy. That emotion, especially in the early years, limited me a little.
“I remember that in the first two or three derbies I wasn’t able to play a high-level game. Then once I got used to that kind of stress, it became the game I was waiting for the most.
“In the end, we live to experience those emotions.”
Maldini’s magic moment
Despite registering more than half a century of Derby della Madonnina outings for Milan, the former defender managed just one goal against the Nerazzurri. However, cancelling out an early Davide Fontolan strike in November 1994 to rescue a point for the Diavolo, meant it had added importance to Milan fans.
“I wanted to shoot, but I didn’t think of putting it in the corner,” admitted Maldini. “It was a difficult ball from [Roberto] Donadoni, as I was almost inside the six-yard box and from there I had a lot to do.”
“Sometimes, something more instinctive can surprise even the goalkeeper and that is what happened.”
“Being a defender, I’ve never been worried about having to score goals. Sure, it’s the best feeling after scoring, but it’s never been a fixation for me. I’ve always tried to understand my role as that of a defender first.”