Alessandro Nesta: Grace Under Pressure

Milan lost players like Shevchenko and Kaká to money deals, where they were sold for a huge sum in order to balance the books. This is a thorn in the side for many Milan fans, from an era that rained trophies and success. But we forget that we were also on the receiving end of a money deal, too, a player that came to us from Lazio. He was a player who also helped it rain trophies for Milan, and an amazing defender, as well. That player, of course, is Alessandro Nesta.

Graceful defender

Nesta was the captain of Lazio, the jewel of their defense, a Lazio youth product. With the armband on his arm, they had their best seasons ever, winning the Scudetto, two Coppa Italia trophies, a Supercoppa, the UEFA Cup Winners Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup. His first trophy, the 1997-98 Coppa Italia, was won at Milan’s expense, with the Lazio captain having scored the game winner, as well. He was meant to be a Lazio bandiera, but the club ran into money problems and was forced to sell. They couldn’t even pay him his owed salary, they paid him with stock in the club when he left.

Lazio's loss was our gain

For the price of €31 million, Milan brought Nesta to the San Siro for the 2002-03 season, with the player having won three consecutive Serie A Defender of the Year awards. Nesta joined defenders Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta, and Serginho, amongst others, to improve an already impressive back line. That back line kept a clean sheet in the Champions League final vs. Juventus, famously sending it to penalties. Nesta was on target with his penalty as Milan won the trophy 3-2 on penalties. He had won trophies with Lazio, but now he was winning the big trophies. That season also saw Milan win the Coppa Italia trophy against Lazio’s rivals, Roma, which had to be even more satisfying for Nesta. He was also named Serie A Defender of the year again, and was named to UEFA’s Team of the Year as well.

Great at Lazio, better at Milan

Nesta was part of UEFA’s Team of the Year again the following season, when Milan won the European Super Cup. He also made 38 appearances in all competitions that year, the same year Milan won the Scudetto. That set him up to face his former club, Lazio, in the Supercoppa in 2004, which he won with Milan. He made a total of 45 appearances in all competitions during the 2004-05 season, and was named to the FIFPro World XI, and again to the UEFA Team of the year.

Maldini has noted that Nesta was always afraid of getting injured, and when those fears were sometimes realized, it clearly impacted the team. Such was the case when Nesta had a serious shoulder injury that kept him away for much of the 2006-07 season. However, when it mattered most, he was there, helping Milan win the Champions League in 2007 to avenge their loss to Liverpool in 2005. He also helped Milan to secure a Champions League spot for the following season, despite a points deduction that season due to the Calciopoli scandal. Once again, he was named to the FIFPro World XI and the UEFA Team of the year, despite missing so many matches.

Helping Milan win trophies for 10 brilliant years

The next season, he would help lift the European Super Cup once again with a 3-1 win vs. Sevilla. He was also part of the team that won Milan’s first and only FIFA Club World Cup trophy in 2007, with a 4-2 victory over Boca Juniors. Despite adding more trophies to Milan’s trophy haul, he suffered another major injury that caused him to miss 36 matches of the 2008-09 season. It was feared that this back injury would end his career, but he clearly still had more to prove.

After Maldini retired in 2009, Nesta was paired with Milan newcomer Thiago Silva. Nesta became the rock of Milan’s defense, with 30 appearances in all competitions that season.  He stepped it up 2010-11, appearing for Milan 35 times in all competitions. That was the year Milan won their most recent Scudetto. He was also named to the Serie A Team of the year that season.

Better than the best

Following up their Scudetto win, Milan also won the Supercoppa in 2011, beating Inter 2-1 in Beijing. This was following a contract extension with Milan that kept him at the club for the 2011-12 season, having made 26 appearances in all competitions that year. He retired along with the other senatore in May of 2012. His Milan legacy included 326 appearances in all competitions, with 10 goals in 10 very memorable years at Milan.


Nesta has since retired and is pursuing his coaching career, but those of us who were privileged enough to watch him play know that he was an incredibly graceful defender, with beautiful, well-timed tackles. He was physically strong and good in the air, but he also was quick, and read the game well. As defenders go, he was poetry in motion, and was great on the ball, as well. Some compared him to Baresi, because of his great passing, and the ability to build plays from the back. He also inspired our current captain and lifelong Lazio fan, Romagnoli, who chose Nesta’s number out of respect for the previous Milan number 13.

Former teammates, both now coaches

We often remember the pain of losing an incredible player due to the business side of football. But we can’t forget the time that the business side of football benefitted us. Nesta has become a part of Milan’s legacy of incredible defenders. We gained a player with the character that Milan is known for, the skills of Milan legends, and a defender possessed with grace under pressure.

This post inspired by the music of Muse’s “Feeling Good”

Alessandro Nesta: Grace Under Pressure Alessandro Nesta: Grace Under Pressure Reviewed by Elaine on 11:53 PM Rating: 5
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