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AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini is to mark his 49th birthday later this month by making his professional tennis debut at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Milan.

The former Italy defender has earned a wild card for the Aspria Tennis Cup at the Aspria Harbour Club of Milan, where he will partner his coach and former professional Stefano Landonio, 45, in the doubles.

The pair earned entry at a qualifying event and they will make their debut on June 26 with Landonio confirming that Maldini has got the talent on the court that he possessed on the football field.

“Paolo’s gifted with a good serve in addition to some decent shots,” he told the Tennis Italiano website. “He’s also improving his volleys and while he may not be catching the eye in any particular part of his game, he does not have any weaknesses either.”

Landonio also said that Maldini could have had a promising career in tennis, had he taken the game up earlier.

“Since he only started playing five or six years ago, there are some deficits in terms of technique,” he said. “If he’d started working on his technique earlier, then who knows?

“Certainly in view of his background, he’s got extraordinary mental and physical strength. Psychologically, he never suffers in the slightest in delicate situations — he’s really strong.”

Maldini won 26 trophies for Milan — including five European Cups — and played in a record 647 Serie A fixtures before retiring in 2009.

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.


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