Tag Archives: Alessandro Nesta

Remembering Greatness: Alessandro Nesta

Behind every great winning team is a world class defence. Within that world class defence, there is usually one stand-out defender in the team holding it all together.

In every team Alessandro Nesta was in, he made up a large chunk of that solidity with his brilliance. Yet despite winning everything there was to win he’s often overlooked when we discuss the absolute best defenders that we’ve ever seen.

I’ve made it my personal mission to remind everyone just how good Nesta was once upon a time and why he is my personal favourite central defender of all-time.

Nesta’s career started at Lazio, where he played through the youth system as a striker and then a midfielder before eventually settling down as a centre back. His place in ‘The Eagles’ academy came after an offer from Roma was rejected by his father, a lifelong Lazio fan.

He made his debut in the back end of the 1993/94 season as a substitute, but by the time 1997 rolled around Sven-Goran Eriksson had appointed the 21-year-old as the captain of the side. After two full seasons, Lazio were now ready to push for trophies and it was him that was entrusted to lead a pack of players including Roberto Mancini, Pierluigi Casiraghi, Pavel Nedved and Alen Boksic.

That season Lazio were in the race for the treble but they lost their last six games in Serie A to finish fourth, ten points behind eventual winners Juventus. They also made it to the UEFA Cup final but were beaten 3-0 by Inter Milan, although Nesta earned the first trophy of his career by scoring the winning goal in the Coppa Italia final.

He’d go on to be crowned the Young Player of the Year in 1998 as an honour to his performances and his time at Lazio would only bring more success. Despite a serious knee injury picked up during the 1998 World Cup meaning he missed half the season, he returned to captain the side through a title race that would see them miss out on the crown by a single point on the final day.

They did however earn the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup with a win over Mallorca and then go on to beat treble winners Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup at the start of the following season, thanks to a Marcelo Salas strike.

That campaign would be the best of Nesta’s Lazio career, as he would lead the team to victory in the 2000 Coppa Italia final over Inter as well as becoming Serie A champions for the first time in his illustrious career thanks to a final day victory over Reggina. Lazio would win the next edition of the Italian Supercoppa as Nesta won the final trophy of six during his spell in Rome.

Financial troubles and stellar performances would see him picked up by AC Milan in 2002 for €31million. He’d join a defence alongside Paulo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta to form one of the most feared back lines in Europe and earned instant success.

The Rossoneri finished third in Serie A but were successful in winning the double, trumping AS Roma 6-3 on aggregate in the Coppa Italia before winning the UEFA Champions League on penalties against Juventus, with Nesta scoring the fourth penalty. He was named the defender of the year and named in the UEFA team of the year, highlighting his performances.

The following year his performances alongside the addition of Cafu to the side helped the team to be crowned champions of Italy. Nesta made 38 appearances across all competitions as he was named in the UEFA team of the year for a third consecutive season ahead of Euro 2004, where Italy were eliminated at the group stages following some disappointing displays in front of goal.

Dutch centre half Jaap Stam then joined and former a formidable partnership, as Milan won the Italian Supercoppa before making two Champions League finals in three years between 2005 and 2007.

Unfortunately for Nesta he will be remembered for being part of the Milan side who blew a 3-0 lead to Liverpool in Istanbul, but he was also instrumental at the heart of the defence as they avenged that defeat two years later in Athens.

That final would come a year after Nesta won the World Cup with Italy in Germany. Nesta was first-choice alongside Fabio Cannavaro but picked up a knee injury in the group stages that would rule him out of the remainder of the tournament. As Italy went on to win the tournament, his partner Cannavaro would end up winning the Ballon d’Or following Juventus’ title that went with it, showing just how much extra work he needed to put in without Nesta.

Injuries began to affect the tail end of his career, but that didn’t stop him having one more top class season in 2010 and 2011. Milan won the league once again and then won the Supercoppa at the start of the following season as Nesta continued to be a regular in the side.

Alongside Thiago Silva the club conceded just 24 goals in 38 Serie A games on their way to the title, with Nesta postponing his planned retirement by a season and being named in the team of the year. His added title took his tally up to 326 games for the club with ten trophies won in ten seasons.

Sport, Football, FIFA World Cup Final, Berlin, 9th July 2006, Italy 1 v France 1, , Italy won 5-3 on Penalties, Italy's Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro...

He ended his career playing in the MLS with Canadian outfit Montreal Impact, winning the Canadian title in 2013.

His career is one of the best, with trophies at all his clubs but also a legacy. He is one of the most artistic defenders the game has seen, with brilliant tackling and raw power to match his gazelle like speed and agility. He was also brilliant in the air at 6ft 2 but unlike the defenders of today he didn’t care for being a threat in the opposition box, it was all about stopping goals going in against him.

Nesta led the way for defenders from a young age and for my money is the best Italian centre-back of his generation, despite the accolades some others may have. Remember his greatness next time there’s a debate happening.

Serie A XI vs Premier League XI: 1992 – Present

*DISCLAIMER*

Before we get too far into it, “all-time” is defined by the life span of the Premier League in this instance to try and keep it as fair as possible. Anyone who played in Serie A or the Premier League between August 1992 and today was eligible to be selected, but I selected the players I saw most of and believe were the best.


I think it’s widely accepted that in the 1990’s, Serie A was the place to be if you were a world class footballer.

Italy started the decade by hosting the World Cup and losing in the semi-finals to Argentina in extra-time. It was the end of an era but also the start of one, as they began to bring through incredible youth players all over the pitch that would go on to become world champions in 2006.

Their domestic league was as competitive as always too. There have been five different winners since the 1992/93 season but a huge 12 clubs have finished in the top 3 positions since then too.

They have been blessed with some of the greatest talent of all time, and yet the majority of them won’t make it into this team.

Claudio Villa Archive : News Photo

The likes of Cafu, Chiellini, Thuram, Davids, De Rossi, Gattuso, Zidane, Kaka, Ibrahimovic, Shevchenko and Baggio all saw their primes in Serie A and yet they won’t make it into this lineup for me. I’m aware you’ll all shout at me in the comments or on Twitter, but it is what it is.

The Premier League on the other hand has managed to grab the tag-line “best league in the world” over the last 20 odd years and it’s hard to argue sometimes. Some of the all-time great players plied their trade in England, while some of the greatest teams in recent history have also come from England.

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Much like Serie A, some superstar names will miss out in this team too. Players like Schmeichel, Irwin, Lauren, Campbell, Van Dijk, Carvalho, Evra, Vieira, Giggs, Gerrard, Lampard, Yaya Toure, David Silva, De Bruyne, Fabregas, Beckham, Owen, Fowler, van Nistelrooy, Cantona, Bergkamp, Suarez, Hazard and Salah won’t be involved.

So lets take a look at who is involved, shall we?


In goal, it’s a battle between two legends. Gianluigi Buffon was the only logical pick for Serie A’s team, with over 650 appearances. He has won the title a record ten titles too, making him the only possible option.

For the Premier League, Petr Cech gets the nod. The former Chelsea and Arsenal stopper’s prime was one of the most unreal things I ever witnessed, with Cech conceding just 15 goals in his first Premier League season followed by just 22 the following year and won the title four times.

AC Milan v Inter Milan - Serie A : News Photo

In front of them will be two of the greatest defences you could possibly build from that generation.

Javier Zanetti and Gary Neville are two long-serving, former captains of their respective clubs where they spent almost their entire careers. Zanetti is the Inter Milan player with the most appearances for the club in history, while Gary Neville came through the academy and retired at Manchester United. Both were excellent defenders in their prime, too. Zanetti was an athletic, strong full-back who’s technical quality allowed him to move into midfield for a spell in his career. Neville was a bit more basic without the athleticism, but had a wicked delivery and was a solid one on one defender.

On the left, you have two of the best defenders in history. While Paolo Maldini is most often referred to as a centre-back, I saw him mostly at left back for Milan and he was incredible. Strong in the tackle, an excellent reader of the game, perfect timing and great technically. He’s only bettered in that role in history to me by the Premier League’s pick – Ashley Cole. The former Arsenal and Chelsea man had a very short spell in Serie A with Roma, but his peak came in the Premier League as part of Arsenal’s Invincibles and then with Chelsea’s Champions League winning side.

England v Hungary : News Photo

In the middle, I can’t think of two more complete central defender pairings you could make in my lifetime. Alessandro Nesta and Rio Ferdinand are, to me, the two best centre backs I’ve ever seen. Alongside them you’d have Fabio Cannavao, the 2006 Ballon d’Or winner and World Cup winning captain, and John Terry. Terry was incredibly underrated for his ability on the ball with both feet, but was also imperious in the air in both boxes and willing to put his body on the line to block a shot like any Italian defender would be proud to do.

Central midfield was probably the hardest decision I had to make for the Premier League team. So many world class options, but in the end I opted for a duo that won more Premier League titles together than any other.

Roy Keane and Paul Scholes were the perfect blend of force, finesse, intensity and goal threat that you’d need in a side. Keane was a stud of a ball winner, but also had energy to go box-to-box, while Scholes was able to be a threat in the final third or dictate play from a deeper position if necessary.

UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Bayern Munich v AC Milan : News Photo

For Serie A it’s a mixture of finesse and technique, as Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf reunite. The two played together for both Milan sides, but most notably in the red half for AC. Seedorf was the total package and could play any midfield role to perfection, much like Scholes, while Pirlo was more about keeping the ball moving and using his technique rather than physical attributes in comparison to Keane.

Attack for the Premier League was probably quite easy in the end. While some top stars missed out, there were no four players who deserved their spot more than these.

Recently retired Wayne Rooney was the ultimate number ten in the Premier League and to this day is the only player to have ever scored over 200 goals AND assisted over 100 goals. Around him, are the three of the best to ever touch the league. Cristiano Ronaldo started his career on the right but moved to the left and became a goalscoring demon before joining La Liga and eventually Serie A.

Manchester United v Arsenal : News Photo

His ability to go either way while also being a threat aerially and from range mean he can play anywhere along the front line and still produce, so he slots in there. On the left is arguably the most complete striker of his generation in Thierry Henry.

Normally I’d put Henry up front because that’s where he became Arsenal and France’s all-time top goalscorer from, but he had a preference of drifting out wide and using his lightning pace to get in behind defences. That also allows me to put Alan Shearer up front.

The all-time top goalscorer in the division with 260 goals, nobody has come close to matching that number. He holds almost all the goalscoring records you can think of in England’s top flight and in his prime, was one of the best strikers in the world.

For Serie A, the conversation is much the same. Two of Italy’s golden attackers of all-time will sit just behind the strikers, with Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti taking the creative mantles in the side. Agility, skill, vision, technique, power and finesse, between them they had it all.

Ahead of them are probably my two favourite strikers ever. Batigol, Gabriel Batistuta, who made a name for himself by trying to rip nets when he scored goals because of the pure power he could hit a ball with, had everything in his game to trouble a top defence on his own. Now pair him up with the GOAT, Ronaldo Nazario. El Fenomeno. R9.

The man was at his absolute best for Inter Milan during the 90’s before a knee injury took away his explosiveness. Even after that he scored goals for fun wherever he went and his inclusion was a no brainer.

Originally tweeted by إسحاق الهاشمي (@is7aqalhashmi) on September 16, 2018.

So who wins? It’s almost impossible to say. It would without a doubt be the best football match I’ve ever been able to see but I’d give the nod to Serie A – just. The complete football team.

Brazil Greatest XI vs Italy Greatest XI

When you think football, you almost certainly will think of the Brazilian national team and it’s glittering history.

The famous yellow shirts are linked heavily with some of the greatest attacking players in the history of football, while defensively they’ve probably never been blessed with the best options. They’ve had a few stand outs but nothing like when you look at the history of the Italian side.

Arguably the greatest defensive nation in footballing history, Italy have had some of the best defenders in history prior to my lifetime including the likes of Franco Baresi. So what happens if you pit the best attack against the best defence over the most recent generations?

Much like in the ‘France vs Holland Fantasy Match‘, several top players have missed out on the lineups simply because I can’t pick more than 11 players. The likes of Rivaldo, Christian Vieri, Giorgio Chiellini, Gilberto Silva, Cafu, Marcelo and Gennaro Gattuso have been left out either because I believe these are better or I’m trying to get more of a balance of past and present.

Football. 2002 FIFA World Cup Finals. Semi Final. Saitama, Japan. 26th June 2002. Brazil 1 v Turkey 0. Members of the Brazil team are pictured with mascots as they sing their anthem prior to the match. L-R: Rivaldo and Cafu (captain). Credit: POPPERFOTO/J : News Photo

In goal, Italy’s choice was obvious. Gianluigi Buffon is likely to go down as one of the best goalkeepers ever and up until recently is the only Italy number one I’ve know. For Brazil, I’ve given Alisson the nod over two legends in Dida and Claudio Taffarel. The Liverpool man is arguably the best of the lot with his feet and is comfortable sweeping up behind a top heavy team, so he fits in well here.

At full-back, Brazil have arguably had the two best pairs of right and left backs of my lifetime with Cafu and Roberto Carlos as well as Dani Alves and Marcelo. I’ve decided to split the difference with this and take on from each era, with Dani Alves and Roberto Carlos taking the spots here.

Footballer Ronaldo in Action Against Italy : News Photo

For Italy, their full-backs pick themselves. Paolo Maldini is recognised as one of the best defenders the world has ever seen and while he could play at centre-back, he often was used as a left-back for the national team due to the plethora of top central defenders they possessed. As for right-back, Gianluca Zambrotta is comfortably the best Italian I’ve ever seen in that position and that makes his inclusion easy enough.

At centre-back Italy’s pairing is arguably unfair. Alessandro Nesta is the best defender I’ve ever seen in my opinion while Fabio Cannavaro is the last defender to win the Ballon D’Or following Italy’s World Cup win in 2006. A combination of speed, strength, intelligence, aerial ability and leadership they would be a nightmare for any attack.

Brazil’s options don’t have the same quality or reputation, but Lucio and Thiago Silva is also a pairing that would strike fear into any attacking lineup. Aerially dominant, good on the ball and aggressive as they come I would ultimately back the Brazilian’s to make an error before the Italians.

Italy Training Session And Press Conference : News Photo

In midfield, Italy have got balance for days. The destroyer vibe of Daniele De Rossi alongside the playmaking skill of Marco Verratti and Andrea Pirlo give the team the perfect base to build their attacks from while also being to compete in defensive situations too.

Brazil’s lineup is a bit more top heavy and I’ve gone with Fernandinho in the holding midfield role. Now I know I could’ve picked Gilberto Silva but I went with the Manchester City man for the simple reason that I have seen him play in top heavy teams before. With Kaka, Ronaldinho and Neymar ahead of him all interchanging positions and causing havoc, Italy will have a tough time containing the quality and invention they have.

In attack, Italy’s attack has got three magnificent talents ready to link up and interchange positions. Roberto Baggio is widely considered as the best Italian attacker of his generation or since, while Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero are the reigning kings of Rome and Turin respectively.

Their passing, creativity, skill and link up play would likely see some of the best team goals ever scored with them on the pitch, although they lack the frightening pace that a side likely to play on the counter attack would like to have.

FUSSBALL: TOURNOI DE FRANCE MINI WM Lyon, 04.06.97 : News Photo

For Brazil, two of the greatest number nines of the modern generation playing up front together is a terrifying prospect. Romario was the main man during the 1994 World Cup and it was ‘El Fenomeno’ who took the mantle and went on to be one of the best strikers of all time. Together, their combination of pace, skill, strength, creativity and ruthless finishing would surely be too much for any defence.

This would be a battle between attack and defence and it’s hard to see past the attack coming out on top.

Brazil are by no means pushovers defensively and if the full-backs are a bit more efficient with their attacking outlet then you can imagine Italy struggling to break them down with their lack of pace.

With that said, Italy will have the advantage in midfield with three excellent ball-players in there so if they can keep the ball for long periods and keep Brazil’s attack quiet then they would potentially be able to cause an upset.

The likelihood for me however, is that Brazil get on the ball in dangerous areas far too often for the Italian’s to cope and eventually they get broken down for the famous yellow jerseys to celebrate a win yet again.

My Perfect Footballer

I was born in 1993 which means I have been blessed enough to see to see some of the greatest footballers of recent memory, and even of all-time.

All of them have excelled in different areas that if you combined them together, would make the perfect footballer. But which players would have which attribute if you did merge them all together? Without using a single player for more than one attribute, lets build the perfect footballer from top to bottom.


Brain
Phillip Lahm

One of the most intelligent footballers I’ve ever seen, he was world class in three different positions during his career. Able to play in both full-back roles as well as central midfield, Lahm has one of the best football IQ’s ever seen.

Heading Ability
Sergio Ramos

It was between two but Ramos gets the nod due to the other player being picked elsewhere on this list. Ramos’ aerial ability is phenomenal in both boxes, with the central defender scoring over 100 goals during his career including a vital header the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final : News Photo

Physique
Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Standing at 6ft 4′ and standing at the top of the European scene for the best part of two decades, Zlatan’s physique is paramount to his success. Still scoring goals at age 39 without a problem, his longevity makes him the perfect choice here.

Hands
Peter Schmeichel

If my player ever had to do a Kyle Walker and go in goal for whatever reason, then I’d want him to have the hands of the Great Dane. The greatest goalkeeper I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes, he has to get the pick here.

Tackling
Alessandro Nesta

For me, the best defender I’ve ever seen. A calmness on the ball that is more often associated with modern defenders, Nesta was the epitome of old school when it came to tackling. He mastered the art of defending and was one of the best when it came to nicking the ball back from an opponent.

Agility
Sadio Mane

This may seem like a strange pick on paper but I can’t think of many players more agile than the Senegal international. He can go both ways as comfortably as the other and incredibly quickly, making him a nightmare for defenders.

Passing
Xavi Hernandez

Quite simply the best passer of a football in his generation. He was the focal point of the greatest midfield we’ve ever seen in Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side and had a phenomenal range. Whether short, long, through the lines or one-touch to beat a press, he had it all.

First Touch
Zinedine Zidane

The first name that comes to mind when someone talks about a player’s first touch is Zidane and therefore he’s my pick. I’ll never forget my reaction when he took down Barthez’s long throw with a flick and beat a man all with a single touch. Genius.

Speed
Thierry Henry

I could have put this man in plenty of these categories but I opted for this one because of the way he used to glide across the pitch. In his peak he would outrun anyone even with the ball at his feet, as his famous Bernabeu goal proved.

Dribbling
Neymar

Flying past opponents with absolute ease I could easily have switched Neymar and Ronaldinho around here. His creativity, speed, agility, ability with both feet and skill in tight spaces make Neymar the obvious choice.

Skills
Ronaldinho

The man that truly made me fall in love with the game of football. The smile on his face while he was getting kicked to pieces tells you all you need to know. He showed me football is an art and the things he could do with a ball still to this day bring me to my feet. What a footballer.

Crossing
David Beckham

Well, duh. Without a doubt in my mind David Beckham is the greatest crosser of a ball that has ever played football. He could put the ball wherever he wanted, from anywhere on the pitch. Genuinely one of a kind.

Right Foot
Cristiano Ronaldo

It had to be. One of the greatest players of all time, I couldn’t not pick his greatest weapon that got him that accolade.

Left Foot
Lionel Messi

The best player of all-time, much like Ronaldo there was no other option. It’s essentially a magician’s wand and he can do absolutely anything he wants with it. The easiest pick on this list.

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