Making the move to Montreal Impact in 2012 after ten years at AC Milan, Alessandro Nesta enjoyed his first taste of football in North America, plying his trade with the Major League Soccer team. Joining his countrymen Marco Di Vaio, Matteo Ferrari and Bernardo Corradi at the Canadian club, Nesta played two seasons for Impact, helping them reach the MLS Cup play-offs for the first time.
The Italian international announced his retirement at the end of the 2013 campaign, though he did make a brief pit stop in India where he ran out for Chennaiyin. In September 2015, Nesta transitioned to Florida for his first role in management with North American Soccer League (NASL) side Miami FC. FIFA.com recently caught up with the FIFA World Cup™ winner to hear what he thinks about life on the other side of the touchline, working for former team-mate Paolo Maldini, injecting Italian culture into Miami and his goals for his team as they begin their domestic campaign.
“I wasn’t doing anything for a while, and everyday I missed being on the field,” Nesta said, speaking about his time between playing in India and making the move to Miami. “I am very happy with my new job.”
Looking at the structure of the club he coaches, it is understandable why the 40-year old is content in south Florida, despite Miami having stronger ties to Caribbean and Hispanic cultures than to the Old Continent where Nesta made a name for himself as a stalwart centre-back in Italy’s Serie A for over 20 years. Nesta has surrounded himself with a slew of Italian staff, including his assistants, his goalkeeping coach, the club’s head of performance and fitness and technical director Mauro Pederzoli. On top of his coaching staff, Miami FC is co-owned by Nesta’s former team-mate at AC Milan and Gli Azzurri, Paolo Maldini.
“Paolo Maldini is a friend and now we work together here in Miami,” explained Nesta. “It has been an easy move here because I’ve known him for almost 20 years. We try to give the guys in the club something from our past. Every day we try to give them something.”
Milan to Montreal
After such a successful career in Italy, including a decade with Lazio before his time with Maldini at Milan, Nesta surprised many by moving across the Atlantic to sign an 18-month contract with Impact.
“All my career I played in my country,” Nesta said of his move. “I wanted a chance to play somewhere else for the experience and Montreal was the first opportunity for me to play outside of Italy.”
During his time with Impact, Nesta took the chance to take in the landscape of football in USA and Canada, which has helped him in the early days of leading Miami during the beginning of their season. “The first thing when I signed the coaching contract here was to learn about the (NASL) and this country more because the football here is very different from my country,” Nesta said.
“I think soccer is growing very fast here but the players need to start earlier. It is too late if players are only really starting at 13 or 14 years old. They have to start earlier and build their technique.”
Playing for Nesta can be an intimidating task for some of Miami’s younger players, particularly those who play in the back trying to emulate the gracefulness their coach exuded in that position. But Nesta has been nurturing the talent in Miami and he has offered plenty of advice to his team, harkening back to his days in Italy’s backline.
“Centre-back is a difficult position,” Nesta said. “You have to think a lot. You have to always think because defending man-on-man is difficult as it is always changing. We have good centre-backs here, but we have to work a lot with them.”
But Nesta is not one to only guide his defenders, he is looking to shape the culture of his team in every way possible. “I have good guys here,” Nesta says encouragingly. “I hope I can teach them things from my experiences as a player. I try to give the full football culture here in terms of food, passion, ambition, everything.”
And while it may be easy to rest on his laurels as one of the game’s greatest centre-backs, Nesta understands his career as a player does not automatically translate into success as a coach.
“When you change jobs, like I’m doing now, you have to forget the past,” Nesta said. “Every time you compare what you did in the past to what you’re doing now, you’re making trouble for yourself. I forget everything, and now I focus on my new life as a coach.”
Photo Courtesy of ©Orovio Photography