by Tom Lees - 12th January 2016
The new Alessandro Nesta. A striking and bold statement isn’t it, but this comparison isn’t just a one off throwaway line to describe a player, this is a genuine belief that is consistently mentioned when talking about Alessio Romagnoli. The young Italian defender became one of the biggest signings of 2015 when he transferred from AS Roma to AC Milan for a fee of around €25 million. So why the comparisons to the great Nesta, well there are a few reasons.
Both Nesta and Romagnoli were transferred to the Rossoneri commanding huge transfer fees, Nesta would move to Milan for around €30 million in 2002. Both have been described as influential, elegant ball playing defenders with a great ability on the ball and the vision to spot and create a pass. Both have also been utilised as full backs in their careers with impressive results and along with all this both players moved to Milan from the two giant clubs of Rome (Roma & Lazio). Romagnoli also wears the number 13 shirt at the San Siro, the same number worn by Nesta during his Milan career. But the main comparison came from Romagnoli’s manager at AC Milan, Sinisa Mihajlovic. A former partner of Nesta in the centre of the AC Milan defence, Mihajlovic would see a lot of the same qualities in Romagnoli as a manager of Sampdoria. Romagnoli would spend the 2014/15 season on loan at the Genoa based club, and when Mihajlovic took over the managerial reigns at the San Siro he made the young defender his top priority.
The composed and gifted left footed defender is seen as the future of Milan, as they attempt to rebuild and return to the top of not only their domestic league, but the top table of European football. He’s already shown his leadership skills on the pitch, directing more experienced heads around him and looks set to be a Milan captain of the future, a leader that the club desperately needed after troubled times. He’s a footballing centre half, having originally been a midfielder in his youth career, he is comfortable with the ball at his feet, has superb positional awareness and is quick and strong in the tackle. Italy is notorious for producing some of the best defenders the game has seen, and Alessio Romagnoli is arguably their best prospect in some time.
Already a regular for Milan at club level, Internationally Romagnoli has been impressively moving through the age groups for Italy at youth level. Under 17, Under 19 and now at Under 21 he has looked solid and assured, leading from the back. He currently shares a defensive partnership with Juventus’ Daniele Rugani in the Under 21’s, and the pairing have shown such quality together than you feel this could be one of the key defensive partnerships in football as both undoubtedly make the progression to the senior Italian national team. Still yet to get his first call up to the Azzurri, it is surely only a matter of time and it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if Romagnoli earns himself a late place in the European Championships setup in the summer.
Now whether or not Romagnoli will live up to the comparisons with Nesta is hard to say, how can anyone think about reaching the levels that Nesta rose to. Romagnoli though has everything in his game to go on to be one of the finest defenders in World football and has made the perfect start to his career so far. Maybe he won’t go on to be the new Nesta, maybe he’ll just be Alessio Romagnoli, a defender that in 20 years from now aspiring Italian kids will be trying to emulate.