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Maldini set to play his 8th final

sports Updated: May 23, 2007 15:36 IST
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Paolo Maldini is set to play in his eighth Champions League final.

The 38-year-old AC Milan captain missed the second leg of the semifinals against Manchester United due to his recurring knee problems, but he played an hour of a Serie A match against Catania nine days ago.

"Maldini is fine. If we were playing the game today he would be on the field," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said as the team traveled to Athens for Wednesday's match.

If he does play, Maldini will join Francisco Gento - Real Madrid's legendary winger of the 1950s and 60s - as the only players to appear in eight finals.

"To be the captain of a team that is still reaching these heights is really a matter of pride," Maldini said on Tuesday. Milan has won four of seven previous finals with Maldini. Gento won six and his teammates Alfredo Di Stefano and Jose Maria Zarraga won five each.

Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf is bidding to become the first player to win the trophy four times since the competition was renamed the Champions League in 1993. He's already won the title with Ajax in 1995, with Real Madrid in '98, and with Milan in 2003.

Trophy tradition

In a nod to tradition and the wishes of UEFA president Michel Platini, the winners of Wednesday's final will receive their medals in the stands, rather than down on the field. After the final whistle, the players will ascend a set of stairs to the VIP box.

Theodoros Zagorakis, the captain of Greece's 2004 European Championship squad, will present the medals, while Platini will hand the trophy to the winning captain.

AC Milan captain Paolo Maldini indicated he's not a big fan of the move. He recalled receiving the trophy on the field when Milan beat Juventus in the 2003 final in Manchester, England. "When I think of Manchester, the first memory that comes to mind - after (Andriy) Shevchenko's penalty - is receiving the trophy on the field," Maldini said.

Maldini was then reminded that his father Cesare went up into the stands to collect the trophy when Milan beat Benfica 2-1 in the 1963 final at Wembley.

"The most important thing is getting to the award ceremony," Maldini said.

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