Nesta leaves lasting defensive mark on Europe

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After 19-years as a professional in Italy, defender Alessandro Nesta has admitted he’s ready to up sticks and find pastures new.

With America confirmed as the most likely destination, the 36-year-old Italian appears set to follow a growing number of professionals from Europe who look to finish their career across the Atlantic.

Along with the financial benefits that can come from playing in the MLS, the speed of play and favourable climate conditions contribute to enticing some of the top senior players from this continent.

"This was my last season with Milan. I've evaluated everything and the high pace of the Italian league, the Champions League and the Italian Cup means that I can't play all the time. I'm not one to sit and wait on the bench,” revealed Nesta.

"I would very happily go to the United States, it would be a good experience. It wouldn't be bad to cross the ocean. But until I have signed, I'm not going to say anything."

Nesta began his career with Lazio, joining as a junior eight-years before making it into the first team back in 1993. His initial impact was minimal, but he would eventually develop to become club captain in ’97.

Success with the club in Europe came through the Cup Winners’ Cup of 98-99, and the following season he helped the Biancocelesti claim a famous Serie ‘A’ title.

But, with Lazio in financial trouble, they were forced to sell Nesta in 2002, and AC Milan took the opportunity to add the Italian international to their ranks, paying a fee in the region of €31 million to secure his services.

Domestic and Champions League success followed over the next decade, winning two of each trophy, as well as a Copa Italia, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup title during his time at the San Siro.

However, injuries appear to have taken their toll on the 78-cap international to some extent, making just 18 appearances in all competitions this term. It’s the second time in four years he hasn’t made it past the 20 mark, after back injuries made him consider retirement during the 2008-09 campaign.

Nesta clearly has no desire to sit on the bench for a sustained period of time, as was the case this season, and so appears willing to chance his arm in the USA amidst reported interest from the New York Red Bulls.

And, if Nesta did have doubts about what he might be able to achieve Stateside, then he needed look much further than the likes of David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez and Robbie Keane.

The aforementioned four have all had varying degrees of success during their times with either the LA Galaxy or Red Bulls, but all have been able to adapt their games and make a significant impact.

Last season, Beckham was instrumental in helping the Galaxy win the MLS Cup, whilst this term Henry was in sensational form before picking up a hamstring injury at the start of the month.

What all these veterans have shown is that a move to Major League Soccer doesn’t have to be the end. Beckham is enjoying his sixth season in Hollywood, whilst Henry shows no signs of slowing down at 34.

Perhaps it’s Marquez that provides the most optimism for Nesta though, and as one of the designated players at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, the Mexican has certainly shown that age doesn’t have to be a burden in North America when it comes to defending against younger opponents.

True, the 33-year-old now spends more time patrolling the midfield, but Nesta can take heart from his potential team-mates success under Hans Backe since moving to the East Coast in 2010.

Nesta has the experience and quality to make an impact across the pond, and it will be a privilege for the American public to watch a master of the defensive art in action as he draws his career to a close.

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