STADIO ALBERTO PICCO (Spezia) – ‘Remember the name’ is something that’s usually said when something like this happens, right? When that name is Daniel Maldini, though, how could you not?
The third generation of Maldini at AC Milan – after Cesare and Paolo – made his full Rossoneri debut away to Spezia on Saturday afternoon and, after a difficult start, he soon found his feet and marked the occasion with his first goal for the club, setting Stefano Pioli’s side on their way to a 2-1 win of the Aquilotti.
‘REMEMBER THE NAME!’ – Daniel Maldini’s was never likely to be a forgettable one, but @ConJClancy was in Spezia as he made sure his would be remembered by scoring on his full Milan debut in a 2-1 win. #SpeziaMilan #FIFattheGames #SerieA pic.twitter.com/m6YM1AGUbT
— ForzaItalianFootball (@SerieAFFC) September 25, 2021
It was always going to be a big day for Maldini, one way or another. During the warm-up, Stefano Pioli and his players paid a lot of attention to the 19-year-old. When the activities were interrupted, somebody always made a point of going to speak to the youngster, with Pioli himself even pausing one to speak with him one-on-one. That brief chat was followed by a hug from Theo Hernandez, and the midfielder looked a little nervy even then.
By the time the game kicked off, those nerves looked to have grown. His touches were heavy, he was panicky in possession, and he looked a long way off the pace. Never, though, did he allow that to let his head drop, constantly looking for the ball and space when he wasn’t in possession, and getting his head up to find a pass whenever he had the ball at his feet.
After 30 minutes or so he settled, and then his afternoon changed. A few nice touches saw his confidence grow, and it had a clear impact on his teammates around him. Suddenly, Maldini receiving the ball started to trigger runs from Theo on the left and Pierre Kalulu on the right, with Franck Kessie looking to get close to him as a short option whenever he could.
Seeing Rafael Leao and Pietro Pellegri warming up at the break, it appeared as though Maldini’s race might have been run, but Pioli stuck with him and got his reward. The second half had barely got going when he arrived to meet a cross to open the scoring, leaving father Paolo Maldini moved in the stands.
Sat beside the press box, the former defender had done well to hold his poker face every time the teenager misplaced a pass, took a poor touch, or even did something productive in the first half. After the goal, he attempted to do the same thing. The traveling Curva Sud then burst into a rendition of ‘Daniel Maldini, Daniel Maldini, Daniel Maldini’, and the smile on Paolo’s face couldn’t have been any bigger by then.
While Saturday wasn’t the No.27’s first game for Milan, making his first Serie A start was a special occasion. Pressure and expectations were always going to be intense around him as a result of his surname, but it’s clear that Milan have a player with a lot of raw talent on their hands.
If Pioli can manage Maldini well, he could enjoy a few more moments like Saturday’s this season. At 19 and with the name ‘Maldini’, however, it’s just as important that those around Milan, the player, and Italian football as a whole don’t weigh him down with premature praise when he performs and excessive criticism when he doesn’t.