Former AC Milan head coach Carlo Ancelotti and captain Paolo Maldini have a special bond that goes back to their days as teammates and champions. They also have a common goal: to reach the Champions League final in Istanbul, where they both experienced a nightmare in 2005.
Carlo Ancelotti and Paolo Maldini have a long history together. They played for Milan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, winning two European Cups and two Intercontinental Cups. They also worked together as coach and captain in the 2000s, lifting two more Champions League trophies and one Club World Cup.
Now, they are on opposite sides of the continent, leading two of the most prestigious clubs in Europe: Real Madrid and Milan. But they still keep in touch and share a mutual respect and admiration.
That’s why Ancelotti called Maldini right after the Champions League quarter-final draw, which made possible a potential final between Real Madrid and AC Milan on June 10th at the Atatürk Stadium in Istanbul — the same venue where they suffered one of the most painful defeats of their careers in 2005, when Liverpool came back from 3-0 down to win on penalties.
“Paolo, see you in Istanbul, yes?” Ancelotti said to Maldini, according to the latter’s revelation in a video chat with Rossoneri Kiev fans. Maldini was moved by the gesture and replied with a praise of the dream. “Who would have thought that Milan, after seven years of exile from the Champions League, would be able to return among the top eight teams in Europe? And who could think, now, that the team that won an unexpected Scudetto but then slipped in a series of falls with the lower teams (the last one, very fresh, is the 0-0 with Empoli after the stunning 4-0 win at Napoli), could reach the final on June 10th?” Maldini said..
The road to Istanbul is not easy for either team. Real Madrid will have to face Chelsea first and then possibly Manchester City or Bayern Munich. Milan will have to deal with Napoli, who are almost Italian champions, and then possibly Inter or Benfica. But both Ancelotti and Maldini believe in their chances and in their history.
“It won’t be easy, but I think that the history of the club gives us the possibility to believe in it. It has happened before. When you get to March-April, when the Champions League arrives, you can transform a season into something incredible. We have this opportunity and we want to take advantage of it. It won’t be easy, we know that, but we like to dream. Without the dream, we probably would have won fewer Champions. Even in the current squad we have many dreamers. And it’s positive that there are them and that there are also those who are more realistic. I was a dreamer too, when I played. I like to dream, my life has been a dream and it has been especially at Milan.” Maldini said.
Ancelotti and Maldini have a pending issue with Istanbul. They want to erase the memory of that night in 2005, when they were so close to glory but ended up with tears. They want to meet again in the final, as friends and rivals, as legends of football.