Alessandro Nesta is an Italian professional former player. Widely considered to be one of the best centre-backs of his time and also as one of the greatest defenders ever, he was best known for his pace, artistic tackles, elegance on the ball, distribution and tight marking of opponents. He made over 400 Serie A appearances in a 20-year career spread between Lazio and Milan, winning domestic and European honours with both clubs as well as playing in Major League Soccer (MLS) for the Montreal Impact. He also had a stint with Chennaiyin FC of the Indian Super League. Nesta is a four-time Serie A Defender of the Year and a four-time member of the annual UEFA Team of the Year. In 2004, he was named as one of the Top 100 greatest living footballers as part of FIFA’s 100th anniversary celebration.
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In the 1999–2000 season he led Lazio to the Scudetto and Coppa Italia, winning the double. During the 2000–01 season, under Dino Zoff, Lazio won the Supercoppa Italiana and finished third in Serie A. Nesta’s performances and success for Lazio during this period earned him three consecutive Serie A Defender of the Year awards between 2000 and 2002. Financial problems for Lazio and its then-president Sergio Cragnotti led to the sale of Nesta to Milan in 2002. Nesta left the club with a backlog salary of €2 million, half of which were converted into shares of the Biancocelesti club.
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Nesta was a complete and dominant defender, who was influential both at club and international level, and who is regarded by pundits as being one of the greatest and most talented defenders both of his generation, and of all time. Despite being a strong and imposing defensive, athletic and physical presence, he was also an extremely agile and elegant player, with excellent balance, ball skills, vision and passing ability for a defender, which allowed him to bring the ball out of the defence and start plays from the back; these abilities led him to be compared to former Milan captain Franco Baresi. Although he was usually deployed as a centreback during his career, he initially started out as a right-sided fullback; his technical skills, athleticism and defensive ability made him a versatile player from a tactical standpoint, who was capable of playing anywhere along the backline, and also allowed him to be deployed on the left, or even as a sweeper on occasion. Nesta was also excellent in the air, and was unusually quick for a centreback; he often stood out throughout his career for his pace, acceleration, and stamina. In addition to his class, as well as his technical and physical abilities, Nesta also possessed an excellent positional and tactical sense, as well as an acute capacity to read the game, which enabled him to anticipate and close down opponents in one on one situations, and prevent attacking plays; due to his ability to lead from the back and organise his teammates, he excelled in a zonal marking system, but was also known for his tight marking of opposing players. An accurate and tenacious ball-winner, he was known for his artistic sliding tackles, acrobatic clearances, and ability to time his challenges. Despite his talent, Nesta’s career suffered from the many injuries he encountered, which hindered him from playing in the knockout stages at each of the three World Cups at which he participated.