Alessandro Nesta enjoys ISL debut

Alessandro Nesta

Chennaiyin’s newest recruit came straight into the starting lineup, with Alessandro Nesta making his Hero Indian Super League debut in his team’s final game of the league phase. The AC Milan and Italy legend was brought in to shore up the league leaders’ defence, and Nesta rolled back the years during the first half, looking an assured figure at the back before being taken off at halftime.

The Rome-born defender, who played for his boyhood and local club Lazio for nine seasons before joining powerhouse Milan, was happy with his first experience of the ISL, which he viewed from afar before coming to play in. In an exclusive post-match interview with after Chennaiyin’s 2-2 draw with Delhi Dynamos, Nesta said, “It’s good! To me, the first season has been really good, and I’m sure that next year will be even better.”

Clean sheets have been a rarity for the Chennaiyin defence, with only one all season – part of the reason head coach Marco Materazzi came calling for his former Italy teammate, a four-time Serie A Defender of the Year. “It’s all thanks to Materazzi,” said Nesta when asked how he decided to play in the ISL. “He called me and asked me, ‘My friend, do you want to come?’ And I said yes.”

Nesta added that it was his and Materazzi’s shared love of the game which influenced his decision to come from Italy to India. “It’s the passion to play football,” said Nesta, who has further added to the Italian influence of Materazzi’s Chennaiyin team. 

Chennaiyin were unable to add to their clean sheet tally, although they did not concede while Nesta was on the pitch, taking a 2-0 lead into halftime. The Italian rued the fact that he could not play the whole game, but acknowledged that the full 90 minutes on debut would have been a tough ask for him. “This is my first game, so I really couldn’t play the whole 90 minutes. I need a few days to improve my feet.”

Nesta brings further winning pedigree to the Chennaiyin side, having won three Serie A titles, three Coppa Italias, and one UEFA Champions League during his 19 seasons with Lazio and Milan. He and Materazzi were both bedrocks of Italy’s triumphant FIFA World Cup campaign in 2006. Nesta has also tasted success in his previous journey abroad, winning the Canadian Championship with Montreal Impact in his lone season there, and he now has the chance to add the ISL title to his well-stocked trophy cabinet. The defender sounded like he was gearing up for the chance to create history by helping Chennaiyin become the first champions of the ISL when asked about his fitness and availability for the semifinals and a potential final. “I’m ready! I can play,” Nesta signed off emphatically.

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