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deVos: Magnificent Nesta calls time on legendary career

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Jason deVos
10/23/2013 9:31:32 AM
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Much like his play on the pitch over the last twenty years, Alessandro Nesta's retirement announcement was understated.

If you weren't watching closely, you might not even have noticed that one of the game's great defenders is calling it a day. Nesta has decided to hang up his boots at the end of the 2013 MLS season.

In his prime, Nesta was world class - one of the best central defenders of his generation and, arguably, one of the greatest to ever play the position. While others - Franz Beckenbauer, Bobby Moore or Franco Baresi in particular - dominate the debate over who was the greatest ever, Nesta is not far from that class.

Even at the age of 37, I saw glimpses from Nesta this season that were like winding the clock back a decade. Gliding across the pitch at the back to intercept a pass, sidestep a forward and calmly distribute the ball to a teammate. It was as though he were playing the game in slippers, casually enjoying a cigar and three fingers of brandy at the same time. He was coolness personified; like James Dean in football boots.

At other times, though, it was painful watching one of the game's greats losing the footrace with father time.

In New York in July, Nesta struggled badly as the Montreal Impact lost to the Red Bulls by a score of 4-0. In September, Nesta was found wanting as the Vancouver Whitecaps crushed the Impact 3-0 in Montreal. The mind was willing, but the body was unable to keep up.

But it would be entirely unfair to let those images tarnish what has been a remarkable career for the Italian.

A World Cup winner in 2006 (although he readily admits that the injury he suffered in the group stage that subsequently ended his tournament took the lustre off the title) and Euro 2000 runner-up with Italy; three-time Serie A winner; three-time Coppa Italia winner; three-time UEFA Super Cup winner; three-time UEFA Champions League winner with Milan; four-time Serie A Defender of the Year; four-time UEFA Team of the Year and two-time FIFPro World XI - the list of Nesta's honours in the game is staggering.

Yet Nesta wants one more title before his playing career is over. He wants to win the MLS Cup with the Montreal Impact.

To do so, Nesta will need his teammates to do him a favour, as he is unlikely to be involved in Saturday's final regular season game in Toronto (You can catch the game live on TSN at 4pm et/1pm pt.)

In the final stages of last weekend's vital 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the Philadelphia Union, Nesta left the game with a calf strain. The injury could mean that Nesta's retirement starts early, but the Italian will hope to recover in time to play a part in the Impact's first ever post-season appearance…if his teammates can get him there.

It won't be easy for Montreal. While Toronto FC's playoff dreams were realistically over sometime in the middle of the season, they would desperately love to get one over on the Impact by sending them crashing to defeat at their final playoff hurdle.

Like fans of both clubs, Nesta will be a spectator on Saturday. But fans of the beautiful game must surely be hoping for an encore playoff performance from the Italian to cap what has been a magnificent career.

Alessandro Nesta (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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