Alessandro Nesta is still adjusting to live in Major League Soccer, but that hasn't stopped him from following developments back home in his native Italy.
Once a legendary center back for AC Milan, Nesta has come to the defense of his former boss Massimiliano Allegri, who finds himself under increasing pressure.
Milan has gotten off to a poor start, winning only one of its opening three matches. The Rossoneri's lackluster performance on the pitch has led to increasing speculation that Allegri could be dismissed if the results don't improve.
Yet, Nesta doesn't believe Milan's head coach is the reason for its recent ineptitude. Instead, he points to the club's recent financial difficulties which forced it to sell Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to Paris Saint Germain and release several veteran players, including himself.
"It’s the reality of what’s going on in Europe. Milan is a reflection of the economic difficulties any business is going through in Europe," Nesta told Goal.com through a translator.
"You have to cut and find ways to save money or bring in more money, and that’s what Milan did. Selling those two players [Ibrahimovic and Silva] was an economic decision, but losing two players like that…they will be hard to replace."
Nesta hopes that fans of Milan will be patient with the club manager as the team goes through a period of transition.
"As for Allegri, the criticism is unfair. I think fans are smart enough to realize that the team is new and needs time to gel, but also selling two key players like Ibra and Silva will hurt the team," he stated.
Follow ALEX LABIDOU on Twitter
While Nesta continues to follow and support his former club, his focus is now on the Impact. Once considered to be one of the world's top defenders, the 36-year-old hopes that his experience will help the first-year franchise. Montreal has won three out of the five games that he's started, proving that his leadership in the backline has been effective.
Nesta explains that he is still adjusting to physical nature of MLS but is happy with life in his new city.
"It’s been a great experience so far," Nesta said. "The city is beautiful, the fans have been great and the team is treating me well. The level of soccer in MLS is growing, so there will be some growing pains. It’s not at the level it is in Italy or Spain, but it is definitely getting better.
"It’s also very different than my previous experiences. It’s more physical."
In its first season in MLS, Montreal hasn't been short of ambition. In addition to signing Nesta, it also added fellow Italian Designated Player Marco Di Vaio and pursued high-profile stars like Nicolas Anelka and Alessandro Del Piero. Still, the team currently sits five points adrift from a playoff spot held by fifth-seeded D.C. United.
Nesta says that due to all of the additions on the roster, the team only recently started to gel. He hasn't given up on the playoffs yet, but it appears as if he's waiting for a full season to show what the Impact can really do.
"It’s going to be tough to make the playoffs," Nesta explained. "We had a loaded schedule earlier on, which meant we played a lot of games before the team really came together. And other teams ahead of us have games in hand, so it will be difficult, but we won’t give up. We will just take it one game at a time."
Despite still adjusting to life in MLS, Nesta still follows the Italian national team with great interest. He was part of the 2006 World Cup winning side and believes that Italy could be back on its way to being a contender after a strong showing in the Euro 2012 tournament. Nesta argues that Spain's recent success isn't unlike the success of previous World Cup winners and believes that Italy is beginning to show its potential.
"Every few years, a new crop of players comes out for a national team and dominates for a little while," Nesta said. "Spain is in that situation now. But Italy is young and with some time to gel, can continue progressing from its runner-up position at the Euros this year."
Mario Balotelli is one of the players who proved himself during last summer's tournament and many insist that Italy should build its offense around the Manchester City star. Nesta hopes that Balotelli will continue to score for the Azzurri but expects the striker's teammates to share the scoring load as well.
"All Balotelli has to worry about is scoring goals," Nesta said. "That’s his job and that’s what he must concern himself with, not carry the offense. Attacking is the responsibility of the entire team, he just has to bury his chances when he gets them."
- Alessandro Nesta
- Major League Soccer