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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...
NESTA was a great symbol of Milan.

They need to replace him with Angelo Ogbonna. He's a phenon, waiting to be the world's best. They also can't lost Silva at any cost.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 12:23pm
Nesta is one of the best defenders I have ever seen. For Italy, he was the perfect partner for Cannavaro in central defense. It is sad to the sands of time catch up with such a great champion. Nesta even demonstrates his extreme class by knowing when the time is right to move on. Honor to Alessandro Nesta.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 11:58am
I remember Nesta from his Lazio days, at the time he was rated among the top defenders in the world. I still regard Italy's 2002 world cup team the best ever. Nesta, Cannavaro & Maldini in defence, probably the best line of defenders at the tournament.

Thank you Alessandro Nesta for the wonderful football you brought to Serie A & the rest of the world. You will not be forgotten....
on the 11th May, 2012 at 11:39am
The saying goes form is temporary and class is permanent Sandro you got class,Its gonna be hard for Milan and Italy to find a replacement its also nice that you left the game on a high Forza Milano! Forza Nesta!
on the 11th May, 2012 at 11:30am
Nesta for me proves one of my theories that defenders today are very, very bad hence the reason Messi and Ronaldo can hit more than 50 goals a season and I don't see the situation improving.

In Nesta's prime he faced some true greats. In his final year he kept Messi very, very quite and I remember he frustrated Cristiano Ronaldo too.

But in those days there were more defenders of the same calibre and some better. CR and LM would struggle to get 20 goals in a season against the Maldinis etc.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 11:22am
He will be sorely missed and Italy really need to start producing the likes of him again. An inspirational and elegant defender, good luck with pastures new, you truly were one of the best, Grazie Nesta
on the 11th May, 2012 at 10:58am
An absolute Legend, up there with the greats in the Italian and World game, thanks for the memories
on the 11th May, 2012 at 10:55am
we all love you nesta.Proud to have you as an opponent.thank you for your wonderful job.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 10:48am
i never wanted this day to come, he was truly one of the best defender i ever saw. nesta was a idol to watch.

this will be a very sad days for us ac milan to see nesta gone with others who was grande milan of ancelotti.

thank you sandro! we will miss you so much!
grazie per tutti!

you number one fan in israel.
on the 11th May, 2012 at 10:42am
his name can be mentioned alongside the other great milan defenders, baresi, maldini, costacurta, & tassorti, a true great, very sad to see him go but i respect it 100%.

Unfortunately i dont really see Italy producing anyone like him for a while :(
on the 11th May, 2012 at 10:22am
Grazie Alessandro Nesta ............ Grazie per i ricordi di essere un difensore davvero di classe mondiale, e vi appartengono alla classe dei grandi, con Paolo Maldini, Gaetano Sciera, Franco Baresi, Gentile Claudio ........
on the 11th May, 2012 at 10:16am
The last in the line of the legendary Italian defenders sadly they don't make them like Nesta anymore.

Thank you Alessandro for all you have done, you will be missed

Forza Milan
Forza Nesta
on the 11th May, 2012 at 10:00am

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