3:52 pm May. 10, 2012
This afternoon, AC Milan's standout defender Alessandro Nesta announced that he wouldn't be returning to the team next year. He's been linked to the New York Red Bulls, and expressed strong interest in playing with a Major League Soccer side.
The Red Bulls, battered by injuries in defense and with a Designated Player slot open, have reportedly been negotiating with Nesta. He's out of contract, so it would be a free transfer.
But this sure sounds like exactly the kind of trap the designated-player spot can be for an M.L.S. club when used incorrectly: an aging player looking for an easy payday and American vacation. It's a trap the Red Bulls, and before that, the Metrostars, fell into repeatedly. Lothar Matthaus is merely the best such example.
Consider Nesta's stated reasons for not sticking around for another year at San Siro: he's not quick enough anymore, he's suffering from a recurring back injury, he wants to play regularly. The first two tend to conflict with the third one, and Nesta's conditioning wouldn't be less of a problem for him in M.L.S. than it has been in Italy.
Nesta is 36, and advanced age for a defender, and he'd be looking for a short-term stay wherever he plays. For a New York team in need of some stability on the back line, all Nesta would do is delay the project.
And don't look now, but the current back four just pitched a third consecutive 1-0 shutout on Wednesday night. That group: Conor Lade, Markus Holgerson, Tyler Ruthven and Brandon Barklage, contains three young, homegrown talents, and the veteran import Markus Holgersson, who has settled in nicely at center back after a rough start.
Moreover, using that third and final D.P. slot on Nesta would preclude New York from using it on an attacking midfielder, which is fine if they can unload Rafa Marquez to a Mexican side. Otherwise, it keeps New York without the vital last link connecting midfield to the strikers Thierry Henry, who should return in a few weeks from a hamstring injury, and Kenny Cooper, who notched his eighth goal Wednesday night.
So bringing in Nesta involves a high probability of failure, doesn't address the team's current needs, precludes a young group from taking steps forward in the back and keeps New York from signing the player they actually need.
Other than that, signing him is a great idea.