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Friday May 11 2012
Nesta – thanks and goodbye

Serie A will lose one of its greatest centre-backs of the modern era when Alessandro Nesta leaves in the summer, says Rob Paton.

With 54 minutes on the clock at Camp Nou last September, Lionel Messi picked up possession central to the goal, 10 yards outside the penalty area. Moving the ball forward away from his midfield marker during the group stage Champions League clash with Milan, the Argentine was a gap between Antonio Nocerino and Alessandro Nesta and with a drop of the shoulder, turned Nesta left as he moved to the defender’s right and into the space. His legs, 11 years younger than the Italian centre-back’s, saw him able to open up a good two yards of air to take a shot – it was a classic drop of the shoulder, turn of pace and close control from Messi that would go on to define another record-breaking season in front of goal.

However, on this occasion, just as the forward was about to pull the trigger, Nesta dropped back into frame with a perfectly executed slide tackle that barely touched the player, but completely removed the ball. Messi, who would go on to win the Ballon d’Or for a record-equalling third successive time a few months later, beat the floor in frustration, having just been taught a lesson from one of the game’s greats.

It is a moment that looked likely to belong to Messi, to be added to a catalogue of similar moments he has since had this season but instead, it is Nesta’s moment to add to his career-long catalogue of perfectly timed and gracefully executed interventions. As he prepares to leave the Italian game after almost two decades at the end of this season, it serves as one of his last examples for fans of exactly the type of controlled player that he has been.

In a period of the game – the 1990s and 2000s – where the explosive, pacey, extravagant and skilful attacking players have received the most attention, sold the most shirts, commanded the biggest transfer fees and dominated the Ballon d’Or awards, it can be argued that Nesta is one of the few defenders who can see out his twilight in America with similar acknowledgement as a world class footballer.

From his rapid ascent at Lazio to go from Serie A debutant in 1994 to club captain in just over three years, and his rise through the national ranks to begin a decade-long Azzurri partnership with Fabio Cannavaro in the heart of defence, Nesta’s career has been as spectacular as any world great and as far removed as possible from the unassuming and modest nature of his character that has helped him achieve it.

Nesta’s success to play out 19 seasons in the top flight, a decade with the Nazionale and to win 19 major honours has been based around an ability to analyse and simplify the tasks in front of him. As his pace deserted him when various injuries from the past eventually took their toll, Nesta still remained a defensive mainstay, because even with the vulnerability to be outpaced in open play by opponents, there were few opponents who could find play open to them when marked by the defender.

Milan’s faith in the player was set to stretch to another season – Nesta revealed when confirming his decision to leave the club that they had offered him another year-long contract. So whilst his choice is not one shared by his club, and fans will point to examples like that with Messi as proof to continue, it remains fairest to say that Nesta’s decision to call it a day in Serie A in 2012 is comparable to every intervention he made on the pitch – well thought out, well-timed and classy in its application.

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Have your say...
in my opinion, Nesta is one of the best defenders of the world like, Bresi, Maldini and Canafaro, but the question is who will replace? i think no one can replace. thank you.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 8:56pm
Alessandro Nesta is a legend. As a Milanista, I am sad to see him leave. Nesta was a key factor in all the successes in the past decade. Along with that, he is a classy person and the perfect ambassodor for the sport.
on the 16th May, 2012 at 5:05am
I'm 30 today and I still remembering watching you at the age of 10. as a kid when I played football myself I always looked up at baresi, maldini, costacurta, panucci and above all Sandro Nesta. A part of my youth leaves with you. Thanks for all the memories we all shared.

Forza Milan
on the 14th May, 2012 at 4:11pm
CIAO SANDRO!
HE IS MY FAVPLAYER NO.1, FOREVER + MY SWEET DARLING!
ONE OF THE WORLDBEST DEFENDERS,EVER + A GREAT PERSON + A HANDSOME MAN = UNIQUE, PURE CLASS!

HEARTBROKEN I SAY JUST GOODBYE COZ I WILL WATCH HIS MATCHES WHEREVER SANDRO WILL PLAY. HE WAS MY REASON FOR BECOMING A MILAN FAN! ALTHOUGH I LOVE A LOT OF OTHER MILAN PLAYERS, TOO, ESP. THE ITALIANS!

FROM NOW ON MILAN WILL NEVER BE THE SAME! I STILL LOVE MILAN BUT WITHOUT SANDRO, MY JOY IS GONE!

BEST LUCK SANDRO! LOVE YOU FOREVER!
on the 14th May, 2012 at 8:49am
i can't forget the world class tacles against wiltord and suazo.forza sandro
on the 14th May, 2012 at 5:46am
Nesta is a hero
on the 14th May, 2012 at 3:49am
i sad day on all levels. because this weekend we lose some true italian greats, and now we will see the true state of italian football, 15 years of no investment in the youth of italy and the invasion of south american and african players has left us with a very bleek future and the possibilty of never feeling a lose like we have this weekend.
farewell nesta, del piero, inzaghi and di vaio and the other great players leaving serie A!
on the 13th May, 2012 at 5:18pm
Great defender though Nesta has been, the best central defender in the years I have watched Italian football was Gaetano Scirea. Rossi scored the goals in 1982 but Scirea stopped Maradona and Zico from scoring enough to eliminate Italy.
on the 13th May, 2012 at 10:40am
Nesta defines class and elegance..A true great of Italian football and an artist..!! The sliding tackles ll be badly missed and Thiago Silva have big boots to fill now considering he is the heir to Baresi,Maldini and now Nesta .. Greatest defenders game has ever seen..Wish we could talk about Silva in the same way after 10 years ..!! FORZA MILAN !! FORZA ITALY !!
on the 13th May, 2012 at 9:22am
Grazie Nesta!
We have been absolutely privileged to watch Nesta, Maldini and Cannavaro play in the same team.

It is not the last of the great Italian defenders who is going, it's the last of the great defenders.

I will always remember the semi final performance against Holland, Italy a man down for 100 minutes- that performance belongs in a museum!

good luck to him.
on the 13th May, 2012 at 3:00am
Italy officially have lost their last great defender. In my lifetime only Canna, Maldini and Nesta stood out. You know that Italy no longer produce the best defenders when people start banging on about Ferdinand, John Terry and Vidic being the best defenders in the world. I don't know what has happened in Italy but i think Canna, Nesta and Maldini should start a defence school.
on the 12th May, 2012 at 5:39pm
Che peccato Che una tale grande giocatore sta lasciando un grande squadra.
Forza Milan
Forza Nesta
on the 12th May, 2012 at 7:25am
You will be missed..Thanks for all you have done...

Sadly such fine defenders are no longer there...

Forza Nesta
Forza Milan
on the 12th May, 2012 at 7:15am
Greatest defender i have ever watched in my entire life. I will miss you dearly Alesandro. You are the greatest, most symbolic defender we have seen set foot on the ground. You always defended like a rock and conducted yourself in the most professional manner. You are a historic player and i promise you that i will drive from Minnesota to wherever you are in the States to see you.
on the 12th May, 2012 at 1:54am
A true great. So many great performances. I remember Kaka got all the credit for the 2007 CL win, but Nesta was unbelievable away to Bayern and Man Utd, where he held everything together. Pippo and Gattuso gone too. And with them another part of my youth!
on the 11th May, 2012 at 10:15pm
Pippo,
ADP,
Gattuso,
Nesta all leave 2gethr...
end of an era in Serie A...
legends forever...
forza Azurri...
on the 11th May, 2012 at 9:21pm
Maximum respect to you Sandro, You are the best defender of the last decade without question, so sad that your injuries cost you your best times in the Azzurri, we'd have been nigh on unbeatable if you playd every time.
with him joining Alex, Pippo and Rino leaving as well, its like the end of an era! emotional.
they should all join the same team in the states! imagine how good that would be. Azzurri legends! slow, but awesome. they'd walk that league.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 7:13pm
As a Milanista i say thank you, agian thank you.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 5:50pm
He will be missed, true class act. But Italy have 1 world class defender left, Chiellini is the heir apparent and hopefully Ogbonna.

Don't despair, there's still life left in the Italian defensive production line.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 5:44pm
Such a fantastic defender, a real shame to see him go. His performances against Barcelona (the Quarter Final 1st leg in particular) were an education. Like Cannavaro he wasn't the quickest or biggest, but his football brain and ability to read the play were second to none.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 5:40pm
Nesta , you were one of the greatest....you are up there with Maldini and Baresi..... and you did it with so much class..........Thank you....the world of football will miss you.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 5:28pm
Easily my favorite player - you will be missed in Serie A! I hope I get a chance to see you play in the USA!! I know I will be watching the MLS MUCH more often than I do now if Nesta ends up joining an MLS team and I feel bad for all the attackers on the other MLS teams that will have to get past him on the pitch. FORZA NESTA!!!
on the 11th May, 2012 at 4:56pm
Thanks for the great memories!!!! one of my childhood heros with Cannavaro!!!! true great!!
on the 11th May, 2012 at 4:02pm
Let us retire shirt No. 13 too. Sandro is irreplaceable. He is the one player I wanted us to keep at all costs. Too bad he is going but many many heartfelt thanks Sandro. Every good story comes to an end. Thanks for the penalty score against Juve on 28th May 2003 at Old Trafford that restored our advantage in the shoot outs, it gave us our 6th Big Ears. Forza Sandro Forza Milan!!!!
on the 11th May, 2012 at 3:27pm
That's it? Kind words but how about we talk about how Alessandro Nesta man marked Patrik Kluivert out of the game in the Euro 2000s semi-final. A defensive masterclass.

A true italian defender, a legend, and i cant wait to watch him when he comes to the USA.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 2:31pm
Trully a great!! A Legend!! Nesta Italy and Serie A will miss you! Good luck
on the 11th May, 2012 at 2:14pm
Thanks Nesta for all the good memories, god be with you.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 2:03pm
Nesta thanks for the memories!!!!!!

You will be missed but never forgotten.....Have a great life Legend.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 1:01pm
Along with Cannavaro and Baresi the best defenders ever to play
on the 11th May, 2012 at 12:44pm
Tempesta perfetta....Sandro Nesta!!! Ciao Grande!
on the 11th May, 2012 at 12:28pm

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