Here’s an extract from the latest Gary Neville EA Sports FIFA 14 column.
The third category is almost my professional role model, the player you would always look up to and think “that’s how to play full back”. He gets forward well, he sets up goals, he defends brilliantly, he’s adaptable, he can defend one on one, he’s physically strong. I suppose that player was Paolo Maldini.
It’s very rare for me during my career, in fact I think it was the only time after a game, I went to get an autograph of a player. When we drew with Italy in Rome in 1998 I went and swapped shirts with Maldini. I didn’t get his original shirt, but one of his spare shirts after the game and asked him to sign it to me after the game. I’ve still got that shirt to this day. I was never really one for autographs, and, at that stage, I was 23 years of age and had never got an autograph growing up as a kid. I just felt as though playing against him in those two games in 1998, I was in the presence of greatness, in the presence of a legend of the game and really wanted to mark that.
He was such an important player. The standards he achieved consistently over 24 years as a football player were incredible and his longevity playing until he was 40. He’s just an absolutely sensational footballer and I think every full back, every defender, looked up to Paolo Maldini. He was the bench mark, he was the one who everyone aspired to be. He was even good looking! I was never going to compete with him on that front!
Gary Neville was speaking in his fortnightly column for EA SPORTS FIFA 14 Ultimate Team. Read the full column at http://bit.ly/1dFwdX1