Defending is an art and Paolo Maldini is its Michelangelo. The Italian debuted for AC Milan in the 1985-86 season and was a part of the team for the next 25 seasons, and thwarted elite forwards winning Seria A on seven occasions, and the Champions League five times.
He spent his entire career in the world-class bracket forming legendary partnerships, first with Franco Baresi and then with Alessandro Nesta. He won the Best Defender trophy at the UEFA Club Football Awards in 2007 aged 39 as AC Milan won their 7th and Maldini his 5th Champions League (formerly the European Cup). He was placed third in the 2003 Ballon d’Or award, aged 35 and won Seria A’s best defender award in 2004, aged 36.
However, not every defender is Maldini, and many elite defenders have moved on to prolong their careers. Let’s take a look at some of the top defenders who switched to lesser leagues in the twilight of their careers.
#6 Marco Materazzi
One of football's most controversial personalities, Marco Materazzi retired from the game at the end of the 2010-11 season. But the former Inter Milan and Everton FC defender came out of retirement in September 2014 and was appointed as the player-manager of the Indian Super League side Chennaiyin FC, signing a contract reportedly worth $1 million per season.
He made his ISL debut when he brought himself on in the fourth game of the 2014 season against Mumbai City FC. Chennaiyin finished the regular season at the top of the standings, but were eliminated by Kerala Blasters in the semi-finals. Materazzi played seven games in the season. In 2015, Chennaiyin announced that Materazzi would relinquish his playing duties, thus marking the end of a highly successful and an equally controversial career.