Alessandro Nesta

Alessandro Nesta, Cavaliere Ufficiale OMRI (born March 19, 1976 in Rome), is an Italian World Cup-winning footballer who plays as a defender for Serie A club AC Milan. Considered by many as one of the best centre backs to have ever played the game, he is a four-time member of the annual UEFA Team of the Year.

Nesta was raised in the Cinecittà area of Rome. He attended the Margherita Bosco primary school where he first started playing football. His older brother, Fernando, was advised to play a sport because of a back problem and enrolled at the local football club. Alessandro threw a tantrum until his father gave in and enrolled him as well, thus marking the beginning of his career.

Nesta's talent was first discovered by Francesco Rocca, then a scout for Roma, but Nesta's father, a Lazio fan, turned down the offer. In 1985, he joined Lazio's youth academy, where he rose through the ranks playing in various positions, including playing as a striker and midfielder, before settling in defence. His international career first showed signs of growth when he played for Italy's under-15 and under-16 sides. He was promoted to Lazio's senior squad in 1993, and first came to the attention of fans for being involved in a training ground accident that broke teammate Paul Gascoigne's leg.

He assumed the team captaincy in 1997, and helped Lazio win the 1998 Coppa Italia after beating Milan in the final, in which he scored the winning goal. This was followed by a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and European Super Cup in 1999, and a rare Scudetto and Coppa Italia double in the 1999–00 season, in addition to two Italian Super Cups.

Just before the 2002–03 Serie A campaign, financial woes forced Lazio to sell many of their best players. Nesta was transferred to Milan for approximately €30 million paid over three years, after being valued at over £50 million by Boudi just a year earlier. In his first season with the Rossoneri, Nesta won the 2002–03 UEFA Champions League and the third Coppa Italia of his career. The next season, he won his second European Super Cup and second career Scudetto. Despite missing most of the 2006–07 season due to a shoulder injury, Nesta nonetheless played a vital part in Milan's return to the 2006–07 Champions League final, where Milan defeated Liverpool 2–1. He (and Milan) also won another European SuperCup in August 2007. Nesta signed a contract extension that will keep him at Milan until 2011.

Nesta scored his first goal for Milan since April 2006 in a 1–1 draw with Siena on 15 September 2007. One of his most important goals for Milan came in the 4–2 victory over Boca Juniors in the final of the Club World Cup in December 2007.

Nesta was a member of the Under-21 squad that won the 1996 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship, in which he was named the top defender of the competition. He earned his first cap for the Azzurri against Moldova on October 5, 1996. He has been capped 78 times for Italy, and participated in Euro 1996, the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004, and the 2006 World Cup. He usually partnered captain Fabio Cannavaro in the heart of the defense.

 During the 2006 World Cup, he suffered an injury in Italy's group match against the Czech Republic, and was forced to leave the match early. This made it three times unlucky for Nesta; he previously ruptured a knee ligament against Austria during the 1998 FIFA World Cup, and missed Italy's final game in the 2002 FIFA World Cup with an injured foot.

After the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Nesta's continuous injuries forced him to retire from the international team. Coach Roberto Donadoni unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to come out of retirement for Euro 2008.

More recently, a number of serious back injuries forced 33-year-old Nesta out of action for the whole 2008–09 season, raising concerns about his chance to make a comeback into active football. Fortunately he fully recovered from his injuries and came on as 77th minute substitute in Milan's final away game to Fiorentina on 31 May 2009 for his first competitive appearance of the season. On 25 October 2009 Nesta scored a brace to help Milan to a 2–1 victory over Chievo Verona in the Serie A. This was the first time he had ever scored two goals in a game. He became a starter and was one of Milan's most consistent players throughout the entire 2009-10 season without showing any signs of rust. [source : Alessandro Nesta]

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