The Red Bulls could be saying buon giorno Alessandro at the start of the summer transfer window come July 1. But which Alessandro are the Red Bulls targeting?
New York has an open designated player slot and speculation is running rampant that the team is targeting two World Cup-winning stars from Italy: Alessandro Del Piero, a genius of a forward formerly of Juventus or Alessandro Nesta, a rock of a central defender formerly of AC Milan.
Nesta has said that he would welcome the challenge of moving to the United States to play in the MLS. All he wants is a chance to start every game, something he wouldn’t have gotten had he stayed with the ultra-competitive Rossoneri (The Red and Blacks).
“I’ve evaluated everything and the high pace of the Italian league, the Champions League and the Italian Cup means that I can’t play all the time. And I’m not one to sit and wait on the bench,” Nesta said in his farewell press conference in Milan on May 10.
“I would very happily go to the United States, it would be a good experience. It wouldn’t be bad to cross the ocean.”
Milan signed French international defender Philippe Mexès the same day Nesta announced his departure, leaving no room for Nesta to return. While the door closed on Nesta’s Italian career, it could mean the start of an American adventure in New York.
A Nesta signing would make the most sense for the Red Bulls, as coach Hans Backe and general manager Erik Soler look to reinforce a back four decimated by injuries this season. Even fully healthy, the team could use a center back of Nesta’s caliber and experience. A Champions League winner in 2007, Nesta’s value is in his ability to read the game and stopping attacks by being well-positioned, rather than being physical and rash in tackles. There is elegance and class to Nesta’s play, like a fine Italian wine.
In this video, notice how Nesta doesn’t need to go ground most of the time and is always in the right spot to snuff out opposing attacks.
The problem with Nesta is that he isn’t going to find the fountain of youth in America. At 36 and with a tendency to be injury prone, the last thing New York needs is another oft-injured defender on their books collecting a hefty paycheck. And while no one will question the fact that Serie A is a superior league to the MLS, the pace and athleticism in MLS might be more than the former Scudetto winner expects.
That being said, no one would fault Backe and Soler for bringing in Nesta because it’s the move that makes the most sense. The Red Bulls could use a defender; Nesta is a brilliant one. A marriage would be mutually beneficial to both parties.
However, soccer romanticists — like myself — would love to see little Alex Del Piero don a Red Bull shirt. Two of soccer’s legend — Del Piero and Thierry Henry — would unite into a fantasy strike partnership come true.
While Nesta is a great Italian player, Del Piero is one of the greatest, an all-time legend. A winner of six Serie A championships (including one this past season), a Champions League win in 1996 and a World Cup triumph in 2006, Del Piero has done it all at the highest level with his beloved Juventus. He is Juve’s all-time leading scorer with 289 goals and holds the record for most appearances (513) with La Vecchia Signora (the Old Lady).
Appropriately, the man Juve fans called Il Fenomeno Vero (the Real Phenomenon) wore the No. 10 — the number usually worn by the trequartista, or playmaker. Blessed with silky smooth skills on the ball, supernatural dribbling skills and a chess master’s mind, he is the prototypical second striker, linking attack with the midfield. Even at the age of 37, Del Piero still has enough in the tank to be one of top stars in MLS should he decide to cross the pond. Don’t take my word for it; watch this 10-minute masterpiece.
There were rumors that Del Piero would sign with the Montreal Impact, but Impact President Joey Saputo quickly squashed that idea and let out the notion that the Italian star only has eyes for the Red Bulls or Galaxy.
“The last discussions we had with Del Piero’s people were last August 2011, when Del Piero’s brother called me to say that Del Piero wanted to come to MLS but that he wanted to go to New York or Los Angeles,” said Saputo to Goal.com. “That was the last time that we spoke.
“As far as I’m concerned, that ship has sailed.”
While Del Piero will forever be a soccer-playing genius, the smart money is that Del Piero won’t be signing come July. Del Piero also plays in the same position Henry currently plays in for the Red Bulls. While Henry could be moved further forward to play as the advanced striker, it would be terribly harsh to bench Kenny Cooper after a breakout campaign so far. The 5-foot-8 forward also comes with red flags. Del Piero is in his late 30s and his goal scoring has naturally slowed down.
Whatever the decision, the weeks leading up to the transfer window should be interesting.