Where Alessandro Nesta Ranks in the List of Great AC Milan Central Defenders

Anthony LopopoloFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2015

Where Alessandro Nesta Ranks in the List of Great AC Milan Central Defenders

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Alessandro Nesta won all that there is as a player, and he did it with class. He came from a breed of defenders that made defending an art, executing slide tackles with the utmost timing and grace.

    The list of accomplishments is long: a World Cup champion, two-time Champions League winner and three-time Serie A winner. He is a member of the FIFA 100, but most importantly he is remembered as one of the greatest defenders of all time.

    Since Nesta left Milan in 2012, the whole operation has stopped working at the back. Even in his late 30s, hampered by injuries, Nesta was a crucial member of Milan’s back line and a starter in the big matches. He gave Lionel Messi fits in his last Champions League appearance.

    On the week of his birthday, it is only fair to look him up in history and place him among the other Milan greats. Nesta did not make the most appearances for the Rossoneri, joining halfway through his career from Lazio. But he made a massive difference in the Milan of the 2000s. He was half of the core with Paolo Maldini. 

    Let’s take a look at where he ranks.

Alessandro Costacurta

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    LUCA BRUNO/Associated Press

    Alessandro Costacurta was Franco Baresi's right-hand man and part of the greatest back line in the history of Italian football. He is Milan history personified, winning the Champions League five times and the Scudetto on seven occasions. 

    But it was his willingness to play anywhere along that back four that made him the unsung hero of that defensive unit. Costacurta could line up as a full-back as well as a centre-back. There was no real weakness to his game; he was both confident on the ball and in the tackle. 

    Costacurta is third on the list of Milan appearances with 662, making him a legend by default.

Alessandro Nesta

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    Alessandro Nesta comes third on the list, and that is no insult. He just happened to play for a team that produced Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini.

    Before we get to them, we have to take a moment to appreciate Nesta. His €30 million transfer to Milan from Lazio still ranks as one of the highest fees ever for a defender in European football, and it was still a bargain. Nesta put out great performances for the Rossoneri, and he left the team with perhaps his best highlight right at the end.

    In the 2012 Champions League quarter-final, Nesta made a picture-perfect tackle on Messi inside the penalty area. The Argentinian was so upset that he beat the ground in fury.

    Nesta was 36 at the time. Class is indeed permanent.

Franco Baresi

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    STEFANO RELLANDINI/Associated Press

    Franco Baresi is, in the eyes of some Milan fans, the true captain. He stayed with the club in some of their toughest years, going down to Serie B with them.

    Baresi played for 20 years with the Rossoneri, and he revolutionized the sweeper position. He was handed the captain’s armband at 22 years old. He was a leader from the start. 

    “At 18, he already had the knowledge of a veteran,” the late Milan legend Nils Liedholm previously said, per FIFA.com.

Paolo Maldini

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    ALBERTO PELLASCHIAR/Associated Press

    Paolo Maldini was simply the best. Ronaldo thinks so anyway—probably many more do, too.

    Maldini played the game with grace. He could man-mark the best strikers out of the game, shadow their movements and most importantly Maldini would stay on his feet. He did not make dangerous tackles, and by extension he only ever received one red card in more than 1,000 official games.

    A true gentleman on the field and Milan’s greatest champion.