The 40-year-old was performing a lap of honour to say goodbye to his supporters, who have applauded him for 24 years; but as he ran past the Curva Sud he spotted a banner whose meaning was rather obscure to the majority of Calcio fans, but clearly hit home with Maldini.
“For your glorious 25-year career, heartfelt thanks from those you branded mercenaries and mangy,” read the banner, as a group of fans shouted the name of former club captain Franco Baresi, chanting “there is only one captain.”
Apparently the fans were referring to an episode that happened in the wake of the 2005 Champions League final, when Milan threw away a 3-0 lead against Liverpool before losing in a penalty shoot-out.
A group of ultras awaited the team’s return at Milan airport and Maldini allegedly reacted angrily at their protests, muttering the ‘incriminated’ words.
But there could be something else behind yesterday’s actions, as it has emerged that the Curva Sud Ultras had arranged an elaborate choreography to pay homage to the legendary skipper, but the club opted to be in charge of the celebrations and turned down their requests.
Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani has often condemned the Ultras’ interference in the club’s affairs and it was no different this time around, with the club itself handing out scarves and gadgets to honour Maldini before the match.
But Ultras leader Giancarlo Capelli, nicknamed the ‘Baron’, dismissed accusations on Italian TV show Controcampo last night.
“It was not a protest,” he insisted. “We just wanted to make it clear what we thought about some of his comments and behaviour over the past years. We were not protesting against him at all.”
Vince Masiello, Goal.com