Paolo Maldini may be in his 23rd season with AC Milan, but he remains as hungry as ever to overcome FC Bayern München in Germany and keep alive hopes of a fifth European Champion Clubs' Cup winners' medal.
With this UEFA Champions League quarter-final delicately poised at 2-2 after the first leg, the Rossoneri are slight underdogs, though it is nothing new for Maldini. Since making his Serie A debut in 1985 the defender has amassed 600 league appearances and 165 more in UEFA club competition, so football holds few secrets for the Milan captain. "I have been giving my all for more than 20 years now," he said. "The fact that tomorrow's game could be my last in the Champions League does not change anything; on the contrary, it could be an extra incentive."
The San Siro result certainly puts Milan under pressure, yet the former Italian international remains confident. "Given what we did last week, we are still confident," continued the 38-year-old, who was in the team that beat Bayern in the 1989/90 semi-finals en route to glory - Maldini's second European Cup. "We are here to give our all and are convinced we can succeed. We could have travelled to Munich with an advantage; now the advantage is with Bayern. At this level, you pay a high price for mistakes, but that does not ruin our chances of going through to the last four."
Maldini's determination to make it to the final in Athens is reflected by his decision to postpone knee surgery until the end of the campaign - and his impact has not been lost on his contemporaries either, whether wearing the red and black of Milan or not. "I have the greatest respect for Maldini," said Bayern goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, himself 37. "To be an outfield player at such a high level for such a long time underlines his status as one of the best players Italy has ever produced." Praise indeed, but Maldini is no stranger to eulogies and for now is focusing on the present, and Bayern.
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