x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Nesta considers Italy return

Now injury free, the centre-half is on top of his game again and is leading the revival of Milan in Serie A.

Alessandro Nesta celebrates after scoring against Juventus last month.
Alessandro Nesta celebrates after scoring against Juventus last month.

While their city rivals Inter have the Champions League on their mind tonight, AC Milan have the chance to close the gap on the Serie A leaders to four points as they travel to a 10th-placed Fiorentina side who have faltered after a promising start to the season. That is the opposite of Milan's campaign, which has gone from strength to strength after just two victories from their first seven games, including a 4-0 derby thrashing at home to Inter.

A big part of Milan's resurgence has been the form of Alessandro Nesta. The centre-back, 33, who three or four years ago would have been grouped in the top four or five in his position in Europe, has struggled with injury in recent seasons. He was out for a year with a back problem, but since his return has been in top form this season before being slightly exposed in last week's 3-2 Champions League defeat by Manchester United.

Such have been his performances that Nesta, who quit international football in 2007 because of his injury struggles, is considering coming out of that retirement to play for Italy at the World Cup, according to his coach Marcello Lippi. "He is in credit with the national team because he was injured at two World Cups. It would be great," Lippi told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I've talked with him and during the week we'll talk again. We'll see."

Nesta had always ruled out returning for the world champions, but has softened his stance after striker Francesco Totti indicated he would be willing to end his international exile if injuries cleared up. Lippi, who again would not say whether he would continue as coach after the World Cup in South Africa, names his squad on Sunday for a friendly against Cameroon on March 3. Roma's Totti is unfit but Nesta could be included as Lippi eyes experience.

Meanwhile, Christian Panucci, the former Real Madrid, Milan and Roma defender, has quit Parma for personal reasons. The 36-year-old has only been with the Gialloblu for seven months, making just 19 appearances, but he has opted to leave with the club languishing in 13th place in the Serie A table. Panucci, in a statement via Parma's website, denied his departure was because of a disagreement with the coaching staff.

He said: "Christian Panucci would like to note his contract rescission with Parma because of strict personal reasons. The contract had tied him to Parma until June 30 2010. "Panucci would like to thank the club, president [Tommaso] Ghirardi, the team and all the fans, and wishes them the best fortunes. "Panucci categorically denies any friction with the coach and this was not a basis for his decision."

* With agencies Fiorentina v AC Milan, KO 9.30pm, Al Jazeera Sport + 1