Alessandro Nesta: Once More With Feeling

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Recently there had been some doubt as to whether Milan would be offering veteran central defender Alessandro Nesta a new contract. With his deal set to run out at the end of the season, a breakthrough campaign from Thiago Silva coupled with the announcement that the club had secured the signature of Philippe Mexes on a free transfer, had cast doubts over Nesta’s future at the club with some reports even suggesting that he was set to retire. Those rumours were dismissed once and for all on Wednesday when Nesta put pen to paper on a new deal with Milan that runs until 30th June 2012.
At a time when Milan are looking to freshen up their squad, it is telling that Nesta has been retained despite his age and the signings that have bolstered their defence recently. The signing of Mexes has added yet more depth at centre back, a position where Milan are already strong with Thiago Silva, Mario Yepes, Daniele Bonera, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Nicola Legrottalie. Despite this strength, Massimiliano Allegri has clearly recognised that Nesta brings something to the table that none of the other central defenders in his squad can.
Firstly, and most obviously, Nesta brings a wealth of experience. Nesta has more international appearances to his name than Silva, Bonera, Papastathopoulos and Legrottalie put together and boasts masses of experience of playing in Serie A and European competition. This experience, and the know-how that comes with it, provides a wonderful calming presence and the confidence that Nesta exudes on the pitch has an obvious effect on his fellow defenders. While he has been solid throughout this season, Thiago Silva struggled badly at times last campaign when he was not playing alongside Nesta in defence, and the Rossoneri rearguard simply is not the same without him.
Allegri would not have opted to renew Nesta’s contract were he not fully confident of the defender’s ability to continue playing at the highest level. While his experience and presence are vital to Milan, his performances this season have also been top draw. Milan have conceded only 24 goals this season making them comfortably the best defensive side in the league. Nesta has been a fixture in the side and, along with Thiago Silva and Christian Abbiati, has been a central figure in the league’s best defence. While he may not be as quick as he was at 25, his positional sense remains top notch and he is as wily, strong and intelligent in his play as ever.
Doubtless playing alongside top players like Silva and Mexes will aid Nesta’s longevity, but the player must be praised for taking steps to extend his career. Having retired from the international scene he has turned down a number of offers to rejoin the Nazionale believing that the extended rest during international breaks would allow him to better avoid injury.
Over the course of the season, Nesta has proven himself more than worthy of a contract extension and Milan have responded accordingly. Another season at the top beckons for the veteran and, despite his age, there will be very few strikers in Serie A who look forward to an afternoon against Alessandro Nesta.
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