Nick Sabetti: Impact hope Nesta can cure defensive afflictions

With 35 goals conceded in 19 games, the Montreal Impact is hoping newly signed Italian defender Alessandro Nesta can bring solidity to the team's fragile back line.

It’s only a formality at this point.

Alessandro Nesta will be playing for the Montreal Impact for the remainder of this season and the next.

Club sporting director Nick De Santis confirmed in Thursday's training that Nesta would not be a designated player, though it is expected that the Italian defender will be a DP in 2013.

It was only two weeks ago that Nesta told that he hadn’t received any offers from MLS clubs. Truth be told, no one in MLS really wants to use up one of its three designated player spots on a centre back.

The Impact never wanted to either. The priority was getting a midfielder and a month ago Montreal made offers for Clarence Seedorf and Michael Ballack. But those attempts were unsuccessful and things have changed in the last few weeks.

Further injuries to Nelson Rivas and Matteo Ferrari, two heavy consecutive 3-0 defeats and the team having the worst defensive record in the league, meant that the club now wanted a centre back. With Nesta visiting potential suitors Toronto FC when they we’re at Saputo Stadium in Montreal to play the Impact, all Joey Saputo needed to do was, literally, walk over and give him a contract. And that’s exactly what he did.

The deal may have seemed rushed and almost rash, but it’s not as if it needed all that much thought. After all, Nesta is no ordinary player. To put things in perspective, Matteo Ferrari, who’s easily been the Impact’s best center back this season, was essentially an everyday defender in Serie A; Nesta, on the other hand, is one of the best central defenders the game has ever had.

At the age of 36, the Rome native may be past his best, but he still has plenty of quality. Just a few months ago, he helped AC Milan keep a clean sheet at the San Siro against Lionel Messi and Barcelona, what many consider to be the best team of all time.  

He has had his injury problems, though. He was kept out of the 2008-2009 season due to back problems, but he’s played fairly regularly over the last three years. With a one-and-a-half year contract, he should be able to make a very strong contribution to the Impact.

Contrary to Marco Di Vaio, Nesta won’t need all that much time to fit into the side. As opposed to playing up front, defending doesn’t involve as much intricacy in its movements, and playing along side the likes of Ferrari and Nelson Rivas, who have already played at a high level in Serie A, should make settling in easy.


The decision to bring Nesta into side may not have been Jesse Marsch’s idea – he may not have had much of a say at all – but, ultimately, the Impact head coach will be happy about the signing. Montreal has conceded a league-worst 35 goals in 19 games, and Marsch will be hoping that Nesta can bring stability to the backline, especially on set plays where there continues to be a great deal of confusion.  

The defender will also help fill the new Saputo Stadium, something the team has, much to its surprise and disappointment, failed to do so far.

The Impact’s advertising has featured the team’s crest as a shield and players turned into warriors, all with the task of “defending the north.” Given the team’s defensive woes until now, the marketing campaign has been practically oxymoronic, though with Nesta in the picture, it might finally live up to its billing.

Nick Sabetti covers the Montreal Impact for Canada.