Lining up the ball on the edge of the box, he proceeded to curl it cleanly over the wall set up to thwart his prowess from free kicks into the bottom corner of the net, leaving the goalkeeper helplessly rooted to the spot and marking that win against Catania as significant for Andrea Pirlo’s first Juventus goal, after signing on for the Scudetto contenders in the summer transfer window.
The impact he has made with the Turin club certainly did not just begin with that moment however, with his presence dictating play from midfield absolutely fundamental to revolutionizing the way the club played its football as a new era of success beckoned under coach Antonio Conte. Initial detractors who were against his free transfer from A.C. Milan, claiming he was past it at 31 then, were rapidly converted. The wave of the move’s success has appeared to catch on, and reports, prior to Milan’s second-leg semi-final against F.C. Barcelona, now suggest Pirlo is trying to convince his former colleague, Alessandro Nesta, to join the revolution in Turin.
The powers that be at Milan were widely criticized for their lack of foresight in not attempting too hard to stop the mercurial Pirlo from leaving for one last hurrah with Juventus. Consensus would suggest they would come in for the same treatment if they allowed Nesta, who days earlier proved his worth in thwarting free-scoring Barcelona and holding them to a goalless draw with Milan in the Champions League, to leave in similar fashion.
The question is, should Juventus add the two-time Champions League, not to mention World Champion, to their ranks of veterans who have seemingly taken on new leases of lives in Turin? What future value would the 36 year-old Nesta bring to the club in relativity to Gigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, the afore-mentioned Pirlo and possibly but unlikely, Alessandro Del Piero?
The former Lazio captain and current Milan icon certainly has what it takes to play at top level for a season or two more, despite making only 11 Serie A appearances this season given persistent back trouble. He ably makes up for his dwindling pace with an apt ability to read the game, where his experience proves a capable ally alongside an innate calm to cleanly win balls and bring them out of the defence with consummate ease.
Such a question can perhaps only be answered after evaluating why Andrea Pirlo has made such an impact with, and indeed why he was first brought to, Juventus. Despite his age and his practically season-ending injury in the 2010/2011 season, Pirlo provided the Bianconeri with something the club previously could not boast of, a graft in midfield that helped the tactical components of the team to coexist in balance on the field, not in conflict. In that sense, Juventus were not signing a singular player; they were signing a new philosophy, an idea, an expression of play, a tactical redefinition. Name thy ways. The same cannot be said of Nesta.
Nesta would bring a boost to the defensive know-how of any team, but in considering the nature of the inevitable split between Bianconeri legend Del Piero and the club, how does the world-class defender represent anything different in value to the Juventus captain? In spite of his status at the club and recent scintillating performances inciting fans and fellow professionals to petition for his contract to be renewed, Del Piero has been told his departure will bring the symbolic ushering in of a new age where the club focuses on young, talented blood.
Nesta may be a head over any of the current Juventus defenders from a technical perspective, but that ought not to be enough to warrant the club shattering the consistency and credibility of its stand towards such matters when they achieve nothing of that sort in this case.
As it is, Nesta’s arrival will stunt the development of his hypothetical new defensive teammates, in a side that already boasts the best defensive record in Serie A this season. Chiellini and Barzagli have risen to the fore in the centre of defence, young Leonardo Bonucci, despite the occasional hiccup, has shown enough to warrant a successful future with the club, and new arrival Martin Caceres has shown himself as adept in the centre as he is out on the wing.
Antonio Conte’s side has shown tremendous potential in the department this season, and can only go forward with their acquirement of young, talented defenders. Signing Alessandro Nesta to offer competition to what is already and what will be at the club’s disposal will only be self-defeating and a fatal prioritization of the short term over the long, wholly at odds with the introduction of the new phase in the club’s history. It has already been perverse, albeit pleasing given his performances, to see Pirlo, a man firmly established in Calcio followers’ minds as a player historically synonymous with A.C. Milan, donning Bianconeri colours; for more reasons than one for both Juventus and Milan, pray Nesta doesn’t follow in such footsteps.