Milan and Italy legend Paolo Maldini has named two South American icons as the toughest opponents he faced in a glittering career that spanned three decades and took in over 1,000 games for club and country.
The retired defender played in the golden age of Serie A and faced the likes of Roberto Baggio, Lothar Matthaus, Michel Platini and among countless other superstars.
But it was Diego Maradona, from his time at Napoli in the late 1980s, and the phenomenal young Ronaldo during his spell at Inter who really stood out.
“I was lucky enough to play against Maradona. He and Ronaldo, when he was at Inter Milan – they were my toughest opponents,” Maldini revealed in an interview with Bild.
Maradona’s finest years came when Maldini was just establishing himself in Milan’s all conquering team between 1986 and 1990. The Argentine had arrived in Italy in 1984 and proceeded to drive Napoli to a maiden scudetto in 1987 off the back of winning the World Cup.
The team won a further league title in 1990, as well as capturing the UEFA Cup in 1989.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, arrived in Italy in 1997 when Maldini had long been considered one of the top defenders in the world. The Brazilian forward had scored 47 goals in 49 appearances for Barcelona the previous season and terrorised Serie A defence in the 1997/98 campaign.
Only serious injury problems arguably stopped Ronaldo from becoming the best of all time.