On the eve of Lazio-Milan, we will take a look at the best player to have dawned both the Biancoceleste of Lazio and the Rossoneri of Milan.
Alessandro Nesta: Now the head coach of American side Miami FC, Nesta was a world class centre back in his day. One of the best ever. He was known for his speed in the backline, as well as elegance on the ball and a fantastic passer of the ball. But, what really made him special was his fantastic marking of attackers. He had this ability to shut down the best strikers in the world and not let them receive on chance all game long. His majestic tackles just made him better and better. He became an impenetrable defender.
Nesta made his first of his 417 Serie A appearances as a substitute for Lazio, in a 2-2 away draw against Udinese as the 17-year-old replaced Pierluigi Casiraghi under the guidance of Dino Zoff.
Three years on from his debut, Swedish manager Sven-Göran Eriksson made the youngster the captain of his Lazio squad. A year after becoming the capital outfit’s captain, Nesta lifted his first piece of silverware as a player. The Coppa Italia in 1998, in which the future Milan legend scored the winning goal against il Diavolo in the final.
Nesta’s Lazio continued to be a European force as they won two Supercoppa Italiana, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, Serie A, Coppa Italia, and the European Super Cup, in a three-year spell between 1999 and 2002.
Those trophies for Lazio where inspired by Alessandro Nesta in the heart of the sky blue’s defence. His fantastic performances earned the young Italian three consecutive Serie A Defender of the Year awards between 2000 and 2002. Sandro, as he was known by, had also won Serie A Young Footballer of the Year Award at the 1998 Italian footballing awards.
Right before the 2002-03 Serie A campaign started Lazio sold their captain to Milan, for 60 billion lire (in today’s Euro’s is equivalent to nearly €31 million). Lazio were forced into the sale of their star, as their financial woes caused them to sell most of their top players.
During his time at Milan, Nesta would form a formidable defensive line alongside the likes of Paolo Maldini, Cafu, Alessandro Costacurta and Japp Stam, to name a few. In his first season at the club, Milan lifted the Champions League in Manchester after defeating Juventus in an all-Italian final. The defender kept the Juventus attack at bay during the 0-0 draw, and he scored his penalty in the 3-2 Rossoneri shootout victory. Milan also won the Coppa Italia in a victory over Roma. And, to cap off Nesta’s very successful season at the San Siro, Nesta, was once again awarded the Serie A Defender of the Year award for his performances, and was elected to be part of the UEFA Team of the Year.
In the 2003-04 Season, Milan and Nesta won the European Super Cup against Porto. And, the defender captured his second Scudetto that season, during which Milan set an Italian record for points. To cap off that season, Nesta, yet again was voted into UEFA’s Team of the Year, for the third consecutive season.
The 04-05 season started the same way as the previous one had, by Milan winning a Super Cup, except this time it was the Italian SupperCoppa and Milan won the final by defeating Nesta’s ex-team, Lazio. For the first time in his career, Nesta was selected into the 2005 FIFPro World XI, based on his performances.
2006 may not have been a special year for Milan, as they were involved in a match-fixing scandal and didn’t win a trophy the whole 2005-06 season, the year still was a disappointment, even though, he won the FIFA World Cup with the Italian National team in Germany. The reason is due to the fact he was injured in Gli Azzurri final group game and missed the rest of the tournament due to injury.
Nesta won his third European Super Cup in August 2007 when Milan defeated Sevilla 3–1, and then scored in the 4-2 win over Boca Juniors in the FIFA Club World Cup to cap off a stellar 2007. Milan qualified for both of those events by getting revenge on Liverpool in the 2007 Champions League Final, 2-1. That avenged what happened two years prior in Istanbul.
Back injuries kept the Italian out of action for the whole of the 2008-09 season, and a return to football was questionable. But, thankfully he returned on the final matchday of the season, away at Fiorentina and played thirteen minutes as a substitute.
Throughout the 2010–11 season, speculation indicated that Nesta would retire at the end of the season, however, that proved false as he continued for one more year as he won the Serie A in 2011 and claimed the Supper Coppa Italiana after the league success, which turned out to be Nesta’s last trophy in the red and black of Milan.
Nesta went on to play for Montreal Impact in the MLS and Chennaiyin FC of the Indian Super League, where he won the Canadian Championship and Indian Super League, respectively.
Nesta is an Italian and world football icon, and has changed the game with everything he has done for the sport. It is impossible to hate this man, and he will forever have a special place in Milan fan’s hearts.