Nesta: “Proud to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Let’s get to the World Cup”

The former Azzurri defender has become part of an exclusive club: “Living abroad makes me feel even more Italian. Becoming the National Team coach in 20 years’ time? Just tell me where I need to sign”

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Nesta: “Proud to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Let’s get to the World Cup”

Joining Maldini, Baresi, Bergomi and Cannavaro in countering the flair and attacking threat of Roby Baggio, Del Piero, Totti and Gianluca Vialli is Alessandro Nesta, who has become the latest prestigious addition to the Hall of Fame in the Italian Player category. With Del Piero, Totti and Pirlo having been inducted in the last few years, it was time for a defender to take centre stage. After coaching Perugia and Frosinone, Nesta is now back living with his family in Miami: “It’s wonderful to receive such prestigious recognition,” the former World Champion said in a telephone call from Florida. “Becoming part of the Italian Football Hall of Fame alongside so many champions really does make me proud.”

The love story between Nesta and the National Team began when Alessandro was a child. His neighbourhood would dress up to watch the Azzurri in action: “I remember all the flags in Cinecittà, the TV on in the courtyard, the wild cheers. These were emotions that remained with me until I had the honour and responsibility of representing an entire country at the World Cup. Living abroad makes me feel even more Italian; I’m an even bigger fan of the National Team.”

During his career, Nesta made over 400 Serie A appearances after donning the colours of Lazio and AC Milan, while he also played 78 times for the National Team, featuring in three World Cups and two European Championships. He won numerous trophies, too: the Club World Cup (x1), the Champions League (x2), the UEFA Super Cup (x3), the Cup Winners’ Cup, the Scudetto (x3), the Supercoppa Italiana (x4) and the Coppa Italia (x3). However, his most important triumph was the 2006 World Cup, which Italy won thanks to a penalty shootout victory over France in the final. That success arrived six years on from the heart-breaking Euro 2000 final, which the Azzurri seemed to have won: “If I could play one game again, it’d be that one. We’d played really well. There were just seconds remaining and it seemed like it was all over. I’ve lost sleep over that match, as well as over the Champions League final against Liverpool (AC Milan were 3-0 up before being pegged back and losing on penalties, ed.).” Thankfully for Nesta, there was redemption a few years later: “Winning the World Cup brought endless joy. It came on the back of the Calciopoli scandal, we were thought of as dishonest and the black sheep. However, we had the strength to make everyone change their minds. There were probably stronger teams than us, but everything that happened before Germany gave us an extra push.”

While the European Championship slipped away in 2000, he was able to celebrate a triumph as a fan 21 years later: “Obviously, I watched all of Italy’s matches, really cheering the team on. I wanted to take my children to London for the final. Roberto (Mancini, ed.) had the courage to assemble a group consisting of many high-quality and technical players that were, however, on the small side physically. He was proved right.” Now, another hugely significant challenge awaits: “I’m both optimistic and worried about the playoffs. We can’t afford to miss out on another World Cup.”

He developed as part of the Lazio youth ranks and had José Chamot as a role model (“I was a shy youngster and there was this Argentine who was a true animal on the pitch”), but Alessandro doesn’t want to designate a heir: “If I say a young player is good and similar to me, things will go wrong. Let’s leave it.” While he found it easier to name the opponent he found most difficult to mark (“Ronaldo, the Brazilian”), it was much harder to select the strongest teammate he played with: “I’ll say Maldini to satisfy everyone, but it isn’t easy to choose because I had the good fortune to play with many champions.”

From the past to the future, from fulfilled dreams as a player to those he’s still to experience as a coach: “I still need to work my way up the ladder, and it’s more likely that I’ll go back to coaching abroad than in Italy, but anything can happen.” And if we said that Nesta would be the National Team Head Coach in 20 years’ time: “Just tell me where I need to sign…”