Accies' Massimo Donati draws on Milan memories

Massimo Donati is the senior professional at the Superseal Stadium (at 35, he is nine months older than his manager, Martin Canning) but he is savouring his status as role model for the latest generation of youngsters to come through the ranks at Hamilton.

While Massimo Donati hopes to continue playing into his forties, management is also in his plans. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS
While Massimo Donati hopes to continue playing into his forties, management is also in his plans. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS

Then again, the holding midfielder could hardly have asked for better mentors when he was making his way in the game.

Signed by AC Milan from Atalanta for £12 million in 2001, Donati was fortunate enough to have Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta take him under their wings.

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Maldini played his 902nd and final game for the Rossoneri in 2009, just 26 days before his 41st birthday. Costacurta was with Milan for 22 years (two fewer than Maldini) and, between them, the defensive giants played in 277 European ties and made 184 appearances for Italy.

Dedication was a given at the Milanello training complex and Donati is now imparting the life lessons learned from legends to the latest graduates from Hamilton’s impressive academy.

“When I was 20 years old I went to Milan and was in a big, big team, playing alongside Maldini and Costacurta,” he said.

“They were very big players and they were also a big example for me – not just in football, where they were very good players, but also in life as they were very good people.

“And those two were very good examples for me. They helped me a lot. That’s why I can still play at a high level – because they showed me and they played for a lot of years, they both played on into their forties.

“Maybe I can do that, too.”

Donati will attempt to bring his experience to bear at home to 
St Johnstone this afternoon but he admits to relishing his role as elder statesman in Canning’s young side.

“I want to be an example for them,” he said. “Partly from the football side and how you should play but, away from the pitch, I want to help them and that is even more important for me.

“I’m a player, just like the others. The young players are just like me, only the age is different. I’m enthusiastic to play, I like to work during the week and I’m really enjoying it.

“I have to thank the rest of the guys and the gaffer because they’ve welcomed me.”

Playing professionally until he is 40 may be the short-term ambition but Donati, who won a Scottish title and a League Cup in his two seasons with Celtic after leaving Milan, also plans to move into management.

“I definitely want to do that,” he said. “I had a lot of coaches in my career and I learned a lot from them. I’m still learning now and I have some great ideas for that career.

“Maybe I will start in Scotland and then, after that, I don’t know. I already have my B-licence, which I did in Italy.

“I might take the Under-17s or Under-20s at Hamilton but right now I just go and watch their games because I need to be more confident with my English and I want to learn from the other coaches.

“I watch what they do more than I watch the football!”

More pressing, though, is the need for Hamilton to put some points on the board after a sequence of one victory from their last seven matches saw them abseil down the Premiership table.

“The results are not very good,” he conceded. “In the first six matches we played good football and had a lot of chances to score more goals and there some games – like the one against Kilmarnock – which we should have won but we lost.

“Right now I think we have to score more goals and win some games.”