His handsome looks, flowing locks and easy style of play all helped create a mystique around the AC Milan and Italy legend who has gone down as, arguably, the greatest defender ever.
Maldini, who turned 50 earlier this year, was the complete player, quick, tall, strong and brilliant on the ball with both feet, but his brain – his ability to spot danger before it happened and his ice cool composure – was his greatest strength.
In fact, Maldini averaged less than a tackle a game throughout his career, later stating: "If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake.
"I don’t think tackling is a quality. It is something you have to resort to, not a characteristic of your game."
Il Capitano's talent of snuffing out a threat allowed him to play for 25 years with only one club, where he holds the appearance record with 902 matches for Milan.
If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake.
Maldini's 647 appearances are a Serie A record.
He was a regular starter until he retired in 2009 and long after his body was past its peak, Maldini was still able to chase – and beat – opponents more than a decade younger than him.
PLAY-BO Christian Vieri now lives the playboy life in Miami – playing beach soccer, chilling with model girlfriend and running clothing label
Sir Alex Ferguson loved him, making numerous attempts to try and sign the star he described as his "favourite" non-Manchester United player.
The one-club man's career saw him win seven Serie A titles and the Champions League FIVE times – only Real Madrid great Paco Gento has more.
The international stage was a cruelly mistress, with Maldini's Italy beaten on penalties in the final of the 1994 World Cup and by a golden goal at the Euro 2000 Final.
During his time with the national team they also reached semi-finals at Euro 1988 and the 1990 World Cup, on home soil.
Paolo Maldini factfile
- Club record 902 appearances for AC Milan
- Serie A record 647 league appearances
- Most Champions League final appearances with 8 (tied with Paco Gento)
- Five Champions League wins: 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007
- Seven Serie A titles: 1988, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004
- One Coppa Italia: 2003
- One Club World Cup: 2007
- Third most caps with 126
- Beaten finalist at 1994 World Cup and Euro 2000
- European Championship team of the tournament: 1988, 1996, 2000
- World Cup team of the tournament: 1990, 1994, 2002
- Ballon d'Or third place: 1994, 2003
- Champions League final man of the match: 2003
- Uefa Team of the Year: 2003, 2005
- Serie A defender of the year: 2004
Still, he was named in the team of the tournament at two World Cups and three European Championships and while he never won the Ballon d'Or – defenders rarely do – he came second in 1994 and 2003.
He was also named in the all-time World Cup dream team in 2002.
The immaculately dressed Maldini could have been an actor or a model, and even turned down an offer from Armani to model their clothes at the World Cup.
Maldini is still the king of cool on the other side of the Atlantic.
The Italian splits his time between Milan, Miami and New York City where he has a number of investments and business interests.
When I think of the current generation, Lionel Messi is top-level… Zinedine Zidane was brilliant but without a doubt, Paolo Maldini has been my favourite.
Maldini, who still has a small contract with Nike, beat David Beckham to land a football team in Miami and is a co-owner of Miami FC, the team that plays in the NASL, the tier below MLS.
He shares ownership of the club with billionaire Riccardo Silva, an Italian entrepreneur and investor.
Silva is frequently tagged in snaps with Maldini on social media with the pair reported to have invested in American real estate together,
Silva's net worth is not known, although he sold a majority stake in his sports media rights firm, MP & Silva, to a Chinese investment firm for almost £700million.
Miami FC, were managed by former team-mate Alessandro Nesta for their two seasons, before he decided to leave.
In just their second season ever, the team finished top of the NASL table, although they lost in the semi-finals of the play-offs, and reached the quarter-final of the US Open Cup.
However, there is some trouble for Maldini and the Miam FC ownership group.
The 2018 NASL season has been completely CANCELLED – with the league hoping to make a comeback in 2019.
Last season's champions, the San Francisco Deltas, actually folded citing financial difficulty and uncertainty over the league's future, as did FC Edmonton.
Two more teams had been supposed to join as expansion franchises, but the United States Soccer Federation revoked the team's Division II status in September.
North Carolina FC and Indy Eleven joined the rival United Soccer League, leaving the NASL with just six teams.
With just six teams in the division, the league was postponed.
Miami FC have joined the lower division National Premier Soccer League, at least for the start of the season, but are open to returning to the NASL if ans when it returns.
Former Italy team-mate Christian Vieri is also a frequent business partner.
The legends had a high end fashion label – Sweet Years – which they sold and made millions last year selling land in Manhattan.
The pair had originally planned to open a hotel, named the Hudson Square, in the fashionable Tribeca neighbourhood, buying a parcel of land for $2.5million (£1.75m).
Just two years later they sold the same plot for $13.2m (£9.2m), without breaking ground.
Effortlessly dressed, looking as sharp in a suit or swim shorts, Maldini is a big fan of fashion.
As well as his old collaboration with Vieri on Sweet Years, Maldini made another eye-catching investment in 2010.
The Milan legend teamed up with rock star Liam Gallagher, investing heavily in the Oasis frontman's clothing label Pretty Green.
"Liam has been a style icon for years and he is a distinctive kind of guy as well," Maldini said at the time.
"Icons in sport or music always influence fashion, you only need to look at David Beckham to see that."
Maldini's skill on the football pitch is very well known, but he's also a keen tennis player.
In fact, Maldini, who took up tennis in 2011, got so good at the sport he managed to qualify for a professional tournament in Italy last year.
The former defender's pro career didn't last very long, however.
Playing with Stefano Landonio, his coach, the doubles partners lost 6-1 6-1 to Poland's Tomasz Bednarek and Dutchman David Pel.
He described his debut as "like writing a poem after years of studying maths" after explained it as a one off to help out his coach.
The Milan man is also very clearly family orientated – with football a family business.
His father Cesare, who sadly died in 2016, played more than 400 matches for AC Milan, where he won four Serie A titles and the 1963 European Cup.
Cesare later went on to manage Paolo at the club and as manager of the Italian national team at the 1998 World Cup.
Both of Paolo's sons are professional footballers, having trained at Milan's famous Milanello academy.
Christian, a 21-year-old centre-back, is now playing in the Italian third tier for Fondi, while 16-year-old Daniel, a striker, is still in the Rossoneri's youth team.
He has been married to Venezuelan model Adriana Fossa since 1994 and is a frequent traveller to Caracas.
The happy couple are often pictured at huge family gatherings as well as enjoying each other's company on trips around the world.
In recent months they've been to Paris and Ibiza as well as the Middle East.
Man and wife met at Hollywood nightclub, a late-night spot that was owned by the defender – so as to avoid alcohol, Maldini would apparently spend time in the club as a DJ, having learnt how to spin records at a local radio station as a teen.
His globetrotting retirement life also sees him hang around with his old football mates.
Maldini is a keen philanthropist, in his final year at AC Milan he donated HALF of his wages to charity, and is a Unicef goodwill ambassador.
He regularly plays in charity games around the world and will play in a star-studded testimonial for Andrea Pirlo later this month.
Maldini has also posted pictures alongside a number of stars, taking snaps with comedian Kevin Hart, rapper Drake and NBA stars Manu Ginobili and Draymond Green.
But Maldini could now be making a return to football.
Last month it was reported that the 126-cap Maldini man was in talks to take up a position with the Italian national team.
The Azzuri shocked world football when they failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Former team-mate Alessandro Costacurta has been tasked with finding a replacement for Gian Piero Ventura, who was sacked in November for his failure.
The former centre-back partners have spoken about the top job.
"I'm always willing to listen," Maldini said last month. "It's hard to say no, especially to a chat with a friend like Billy [Costacurta].
"Let's see if there are the right conditions to do something together, otherwise 'forza Italia' always."
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