Paolo Maldini branded AC Milan "the best club in the world over the past 20 years" after yet another assured display from the captain inspired the Rossoneri to their seventh European Champion Clubs' Cup.
Goals from Filippo Inzaghi in each half sealed a 2-1 success over Liverpool FC in Athens, as Milan avenged their defeat by the same opposition two years ago. For Maldini, who has now won the competition five times, the result confirms Milan's standing at the summit of the global game. "This club has provided me with a lot of amazing emotions and this is another example," he told uefa.com. "We've been the best team in Italy, Europe and the world over the past 20 years. And the cycle hasn't ended yet. We've got something different [to other clubs]. For some time we've had this special mentality. Sometimes we have unsuccessful seasons but we always bounce back the next year, even when people dismiss our chances."
As his 22nd campaign as a Milan player drew to a close amid euphoric scenes in the OACA Spyro Louis Stadium, the 38-year-old took a moment to reflect on his remarkable career. "This is the ultimate achievement for a player, so to have enjoyed this feeling so many times is wonderful," the defender said. "When I lifted the trophy I thought about all the sacrifices I've made over the years and about the people who are close to me and who have supported me during the difficult moments."
While Maldini rarely looked in difficulty against the likes of Dirk Kuyt, Steven Gerrard and later Peter Crouch, he was unquestionably aided by an outstanding performance from his defensive partner Alessandro Nesta. Back to his best after a lengthy lay-off, Nesta might just have answered his detractors in the best possible way. "I've been criticised a lot in the past year," the former S.S. Lazio man told uefa.com. "Some people were even saying Italy won the [FIFA] World Cup because I was injured. But I have come back and I'm delighted to have won because Milan are like a family to me. When I returned from injury, the team were starting to play well again and that helped me. Now the season has ended on a wonderful high.
It wasn't a beautiful game but we had to win and I feel it was a fair result."
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