On Tuesday July 23rd, 2019, AC Milan played their first preseason match of the International Champions Cup against Bayern Munich at the Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. Thousands of Milan fans gathered at the stadium and around television sets and streaming devices to catch a glimpse of not only their beloved Milan taking on Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, but also the debut of Daniel Maldini.
The day AC Milan fans had been waiting years for had finally arrived, 10 years after his father, Milan great and sports icon, Paolo Maldini, played his final game for the Rossoneri. The Maldini name has been synonymous with greatness from the days of Cesare Maldini to the iconic days of Paolo Maldini. The thought of another ‘Maldini’ carrying on a legacy that has lasted over 6 decades seems unfathomable, but that’s exactly the expectation many Milan fans have of Daniel Maldini.
To say that Daniel has extremely huge shoes to fill might actually be the understatement of the young 21st century. Daniel’s grandfather Cesare, played 12 seasons for the red and black of Milan, captaining the side to their first European Cup, while also being capped by the Azzuri on 14 occasions. He also managed Milan, the Azzurini and Azzuri at different spells during his illustrious career. Daniel’s father, the ubiquitously known Paolo Maldini’s accomplishments and contributions to football are certainly too long to list here. Among those are 25 years with one club (AC Milan), Serie A all-time appearance leader, 5-time Champions League winner and this beautifully timed tackle against the aptly named Milan Obradovic.
This tackle from Maldini is so clean and satisfying. AC Milan vs Lokomotiv Moscow - Champions League 2003. pic.twitter.com/S9S0jzDlD6— KING Wyllan ⚫ (@KINGwyllan) August 1, 2019
The sight of Daniel gracing the field for the first time evokes thoughts of pride and fear, similar to a parent witnessing the first steps of their child. Milan fans would love nothing more than to have the opportunity to shout the Maldini name in a Champions League match for the next 20 years. Fans however, have been left polarized when attempting to objectively assess Daniel’s game.
Milan fans generally fall within two factions when attempting to assess the young Maldini, with both sects being fueled by their own confirmation biases. While some fans express extreme caution by managing expectations for the Primavera product, others see great potential and expect Daniel to carry on the legacy established by his paternal lineage (I may be guilty of the latter). His debut gave both factions ample fodder to justify their positions. Where some saw a heavy touch, others saw a nervous lad and where some saw missed opportunity to score, others commented on how close he came to scoring with his first shot.
The accurate assessment of Daniel Maldini objectively lies somewhere in the middle. While odds are that he never ascends to the heights that his father attained and made his own, chances are he enjoys a very fruitful career and avoids the pitfalls of other greats’ sons including Diego Sinagra, Enzo Zidane and his elder brother Christian Maldini. At only 17 years old, the sky is the limit for young Maldini, but extreme patience is going to have to be excercised, not only from management, but also from Milanistas the world over.