Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Alessandro Nesta

Alessandro Nesta, Ufficiale OMRI (born March 19, 1976 in Rome), is an Italian World Cup-winning professional footballer who plays as a defender for Serie A club 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.

Alessandro Nesta began his career for Italy was a member of the Under-21 squad that won the 1996 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship. A few months later he was named to Italy's Euro 96 squad in England but did not come off the bench as Italy were eliminated in the group stage by eventual finalists Germany and the Czech Republic. He earned his first cap for the Azzurri in a qualifier for the 1998 FIFA World Cup against Moldova on October 5, 1996 and eventually made seven appearances in the qualifying campaign. At the final tournament, Nesta played in all three group games but made no further appearances due to injury. Two years later, Nesta featured at UEFA Euro 2000 partnering Paolo Maldini and Fabio Cannavaro in defense throughout most of the tournament as Italy finished as runner-ups.

Following Euro 2000, Nesta appeared regularly for the Azzuri as a first choice center back under Giovanni Trappatoni. During the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Nesta partnered Fabio Cannavaro in central defense but once again injury kept him out of the second round defeat to Korea. Italy's disappointment continued at UEFA Euro 2004 as they were eliminated in the first round by Denmark and Sweden but Nesta managed to stay injury free and played for a full 90 minutes in all three group games. Following two successive disappointments, newly appointed manager Marcello Lippi kept Nesta in the starting lineup as Italy topped their qualification group en route to the 2006 FIFA World Cup. However, the final tournament turned out to be a disappointment as injury in the final group game against the Czech Republic put him on the sidelines as Italy went on to win the trophy. After the World Cup, Nesta made one appearance in the Euro 2008 qualifiers against Georgia but continuous injuries forced him to retire from the international team. Prior to the final tournament, Nesta declined Roberto Donadoni's invitation to return to the national team. Two years later, he similarly turned down an invitation from Marcello Lippi prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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