Ciao Paolo Maldini -- You Are The Last Of a Dying Breed

Jersey Al BraccoSenior Analyst IMay 31, 2009

FIRENZE, ITALY - MAY 31:   Paolo Maldini of Milan (R) acknowledges fans prior to the Serie A match between Fiorentina and Milan at the Stadio Franchi on May 31, 2009 in Firenze, Italy. He retires after serving 24 years with the club.  (Photo by New Press/Getty Images)

I didn't set out to write an article about Paolo Maldini today. In fact, I should be out trimming the bushes right now, but thanks to the wonders of Tivo, I was reminded that this was an historic day for Italian Soccer.

I was sitting at the kitchen table, with my Sunday newspaper and morning coffee at hand and ESPN on TV, when suddenly the TV station changed on its own. Well, not really on its own, my TIVO, which records all Serie A games for me, was just doing its job.

This particular time, it reminded me that the soccer world was losing some great players today—Luis Figo, Pavel Nedved, and of course, Paolo Maldini.

While not an AC Milan fan, Maldini holds a special place in my heart for two reasons.

First of all, I am a big fan of loyalty—something that has been lost in today's sports world. Can anybody right now, imagine a modern-day star athlete playing 25 years for the same team?

It's tough to come up with some names—maybe Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees?

But for any athlete entering the sports world in 2009, will something like Maldini's loyalty to team ever happen again? I sadly say, no way.

The second reason Maldini's retirement has affected me is I see his picture every day. You see, my son, who is now 21 and about to enter his last year of college, played soccer as his primary sport. (I know it's "football" for many of you but for this article I will use our American term for the beautiful game).

My son had pictures of various players on his walls throughout the years. Carlos Valderrama—he loved the wild hair and even dressed up like him one year for Halloween. Pele, of course—I made sure he knew his soccer history.

Lots of player's pictures came and went over the years, but one remained. A tremendous photo of Paolo Maldini slide tackling the ball away from the great striker Romario of Brazil.

This particular picture is just inside the door and is visible everytime I walk by. So for the last 12 years, at least, I've seen that picture on a daily basis. In the past it reminded me of some great soccer players.

Seeing it now reminds me of days gone by, ferrying my son (and daughter) to their soccer games and even enjoying a bit of coaching I got talked into.

Even though my son's playing days are over, he is away at college, and only lives at home during the summers the picture remains. For some reason, he has never taken that one down.

Paolo Maldini played his final game today. As usual, he did so with grace and respect for the game and his club. He was substituted for in injury time, and every player on both teams embraced him and congratulated him on an amazing career.

This is not a tribute article. Others here have done a great job of that already. It's just my way of saying:

Ciao Paolo Maldini—we will not see another like you. Farewell.