Farewell to Maxwell - this decade’s most underrated footballer and the man who made PSG cool


Rarely can a weekend of football have been so valedictory in nature. 

Wherever you looked, there were farewells. In Munich, Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso bowed out under showers of pilsner. Francesco Totti came off the bench for what is likely to be his final match, monopolising attentions to the extent that the cameramen at Chievo's Bentegodi stadium didn't even manage to capture the final Roma goal in a 5-3 win. John Terry's Super Sweet 26 at Stamford Bridge broke the Cringeometer.

It was a fitting, continent-wide celebration of departing greats. But one goodbye party – held in honour of another of the European game's serial winners – regretfully slipped under the radar of the mainstream on Saturday night.


The Paris Saint-Germain players came out onto the Parc des Princes pitch wearing t-shirts bearing his name, then gave him a guard of honour. All of the mascots donned his trademark No.17 jersey. Unai Emery handed him the captain's armband on his 213th and final appearance for the club. A video message recorded by Zlatan Ibrahimovic was played on the big screens. 

It was an all-singing, all-dancing send-off, and it came as little surprise when a couple of tears escaped down the recipient's cheek at full-time. Rarely, even in a career spanning over 17 years and taking in countless adventures, can Maxwell have felt so much love.

Only the delusional, of course, would claim that the Brazilian belongs to the same elite club as Alonso, Totti et al. Nor does he have one-team loyalty credentials or a drawer bursting with international caps. But there's a good argument to be made that Maxwell, the Little Full-Back That Could, has been among global football's most underrated players over the last decade or so. 

The bullet points on his CV tell part of the story. The 35-year-old has won a staggering 11 domestic league titles in 16 seasons in Europe. Not just for any old no-marks, either: we're talking spells at Ajax, Internazionale and Barcelona before he pitched up in at PSG in 2012. Add to that a Champions League winner's medal, a clutch of domestic cups and two Club World Cups and you've got a mightily impressive haul. 

Nor was he a mere hanger-on in those successes. In Amsterdam, under Ronald Koeman's tutelage, he won the Dutch Footballer of the Year award – no mean feat for a left-back. Before this season, he had been named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year four seasons running. Even at Barcelona and Inter, he played a bigger part than you might remember: he has never made fewer than 24 appearances in a campaign since traversing the Atlantic.

The brute facts are impressive, then, but they obscure the question of style – and this is where Maxwell has always excelled. Many defenders have been faster. Many have been stronger and meaner. But few have oozed class like Maxwell, nor known how to push the ceiling of their talent within accepted limitations. He is the Galaxie 500 of modern full-backs, eschewing the showy stuff for well-grooved majesty. 

Over the last five campaigns, he has been one of the most compelling fixtures of PSG's play. There he goes, gliding insistently up the flank to whip another cross right onto the striker's head, or hanging back to trade first-time passes with the midfielders, or generally looking like the most composed former Lemonheads bassist ever to grace Ligue 1. Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani may have lent Les Parisiens their box-office status; Maxwell made them cool.

The highlights have been plentiful. The mini-Van Basten volley against Bastia. The nutmeg-crossbar classic against Rennes. That succulent lob against Montpellier. So many assists for Ibrahimovic that the Swede – a team-mate at four different clubs – once called him "the best guy in the world". He would surely have accrued more than ten Brazil caps an another era, but had the misfortune of overlapping with Roberto Carlos, then Marcelo and Filipe Luís.


He has also been an example behind the scenes: not for nothing did so many of his team-mates wax lyrical about his dedication and professionalism this weekend. "He's a great man and he brought a lot to Paris Saint-Germain," said Unai Emery. "He's a top player, both on and off the pitch. He never stopped proving that to us." 

If there was a bittersweet undercurrent to Saturday's tributes, it is because Maxwell would be more than happy to stick around for another season or two. But it wasn't to be; Layvin Kurzawa has served his apprenticeship and the old stalwart has served his time. 

Any hard feelings, though, will soon fade. "Paris Saint-Germain will remain in my heart and the Parc will always be my home," Maxwell said wistfully. "I've had a lot of wonderful experiences here, not just on the pitch but also with the all the people at the club. I'm very moved tonight, after five and a half years of amazing times."

Make that 16 since he pitched up in Europe as a teenager with a dreamy left foot and lofty dreams back in 2001. Time flies, but the quiet buccaneer with the unusual name definitely earned his hero's farewell.