Home MLS Montreal Impact Would Nesta be able to help fill Stade Saputo?

Would Nesta be able to help fill Stade Saputo?

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Nestamania hit a new peak on Tuesday night, with another crescendo expected on Wednesday.

Twitter was abuzz with Montreal Impact fans welcoming legendary Italian defender Alessandro Nesta to town, after TVA Sports broke a story via social media that, after days of rumour and speculation, a deal was done.

The Impact have not officially confirmed the reports, which were later echoed in other Montreal media outlets. Still, the Impact has not been shy in talking about a possible Nesta deal.

“I can tell you that Alessandro Nesta wants to be here,” said Montreal coach Jesse Marsch, quoted in an Impact release issued Tuesday. “We are working on making that happen. It would be incredible to be able to count on him.”

And that’s the thing, throughout this whole process, the Impact’s front office has worked in a very different way than we’d normally see in MLS. Teams usually don’t publicly declare their interest in players or confirm that contract offers have been made. But the Impact has chosen to fan the flames of speculation, not hose them down. It’s clear that the Impact wants to milk the buzz for all it’s worth.

It’s a sign of how much of a splash the club wants this signing to be. The cynics will point out that the deal came after the Impact lost two consecutive matches by 3-0 counts, and they will ask just how much of a role owner Joey Saputo had in making the deal.

Alessandro Nesta

But, there are more important stats at play here, stats that are more important for a first-year MLS club than wins and losses. They are the poor attendance numbers at Stade Saputo since the club made the short move from Olympic Stadium. The shiny, redesigned stadium hasn’t hosted a sellout yet. A June 23 home win against Brian Ching drew an announced crowd of just 13,357. On broadcasts of matches from the stadium, empty blue seats are evident.

Nesta, although he’s a defender, has a name, a face and a marketable persona. His name is better known than Designated Player Marco Di Vaio’s. Tuesday’s buzz on social media over the possible signing of Nesta, despite the fact he is 36 and has a history of back problems, shows that yes, maybe, there’s enough sizzle still left about the central defender to motivate more Montrealers to buy tickets for matches.

But, assuming that the signature is on the deal, we can ask: Can Nesta be the saviour for the Impact’s MLS-worst defence. We will have to see just how much mileage the Italian central defender has left.

Nesta featured in about half of AC Milan’s matches last season. But, remember, he missed pretty well an entire season in 2008-09 due to back problems. And a cranky back is one of those issues that can continue to haunt a player.

Clearly, Nesta can’t be pushed to play every week. And, when Matteo Ferrari and Nelson Rivas get their health back, the question is how the Italian veteran will be featured into the lineup.

Oh, but that’s the rub. Rivas has a history of not being healthy, either.

Last week, Toronto FC had discussions with Nesta’s camp about moving to the Reds. But TFC brass said Saturday that they still had salary-cap issues to deal with before they could move forward on a Nesta deal. It looks as if Montreal has made a better offer, and one that can be triggered right away.

If Nesta can get more people motivated to head to the stadium, to buy ticket packages, to commit their hard-earned cash to the Impact, that’s the measure of this deal — not wins and losses.

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