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As every footballing legend departs the player’s void becomes more difficult to fulfill and even more so when the player carries the title of Alessandro Nesta. Unlike Paolo Maldini before him, Nesta’s shirt wasn’t worthy of retirement.
Nesta grew up a Lazio fan and started his career at the Roman club, yet, after a decade of so honorably sporting the Rossoneri colours, the void left in the number 13 jersey was nearly as great as the ones left by the retired number three and Franco Baresi’s number six.
Recently much debate has been centered on Francesco Acerbi’s acquisition of the number 13 shirt.
Brought in to replace the Italian central defender, Acerbi’s abilities to live up to such high expectations in that shirt has been highly, and unfairly, criticized.
"As a fan of AC Milan I am very happy to be here and I would like to win a lot with this shirt,” the 23-year-old noted in his opening comments at his unveiling.
For most Milanisti, Nesta was an idol, an epitome of a Rossonero gentleman, an honourable and proud persona, but above all, he was part of the Milan family.
One of the greatest centre backs to play football, few could read the game like he did and few could interpret a challenge while instilling a sense of calmness at the toughest of times.
Like his predecessor before him, Acerbi joined Milan at the same age of ‘Tempesta Perfetta’ (The perfect storm), just ten years before. The difference between the two, with abilities aside, is the fact that Nesta was unwilling to join Milan whilst Acerbi embraced the move with arms wide open.
Signing a deal from Chievo, the Dresano-born player noted. “Arriving at Milan is fascinating. I know it to be in a wonderful club and I would like be here for ten years and not a single year so I need to do well.
“Since I arrived I'm trying to learn better and faster. For me now, what matters is to be here and to do well…”
So much so was his eagerness to join Milan, the former Reggina player was spotted at Milanello the day before preseason had even commenced in order to help be on top of his game.
Acerbi may not be on the same level to that of when Nesta arrived, but he is well aware of his areas that need improvement and his readiness to learn is no shade of grey.
“I would like to improve on a tactical level and I am convinced that we must always improve. I'll always be ready and available for Milan and I hope to have a good season and assert myself.”
The concern surrounding his acquisition of the ‘numero 13’ is that Acerbi will fail to live up to the heritage and the legacy the shirt carries, but it is a fear that should need not be a concern.
To wear such a legendary shirt, a player has to give his all for the team and honour the colours and the badge, Acerbi has done this.
The centre-back has already shown one sign of devotion by arriving at Milanello before the preseason had started. His love for the colours, from since he was a little boy, will help him to develop into an even better player.
No player will every reach the level the long black locks of Nesta, but one thing that will be guaranteed from the new signing, is that he will play his heart out and do his utmost to honour the shirt.
After time Nesta grew to love the shirt of Milan and in time Acerbi will learn to develop into an excellent player, and it is with his devotion and loyalty to the club which will set him aside from any other player who could have inherited the shirt.