World Soccer: It’s inevitable that speculation will start again about your future. Will you be with Lazio at the end of the season?
ALESSANDRO NESTA: We cannot think even that far ahead. The only targets we have at this club are to improve our form and our morale. We have to concentrate on each new match, both in Serie A and the Champions League. Long-term consequences we can think about later. That’s not the priority.
How important has Dino Zoff been to your career? Zoff has spent nine years of his footballing life at Lazio and I have spent eight with the club, so we have a lot in common. We have come through a lot together, some of it good and some not so good. Of course, he has not always been coach – he was also chief executive for a while. But he has always been a point of reference for me at Lazio. What has happened is very unfortunate. But that is football. Coaches do change. It’s not a matter for the players. We have to devote ourselves to representing the club whoever picks the team.
Was it a mistake for Lazio to get rid of Eriksson?
After all, you had won just about everything with him. Again, that’s history. Eriksson was very different to most Italian coaches in style and temperament. Maybe that was one of the secrets of his success. He stood a bit further back, so to speak. He got on with his job and trusted us to get on with ours. He also trusted us to make sure we had the right lifestyle. I think he believed that if you get your priorities right in life, then you will get them right in footballterms. It doesn’t surprise me he is doing so well with England.
Who is the most difficult centre-forward you have come up against?
The worst experience I ever had was playing against Ronaldo when we faced Internazionale in the 1998 UEFA Cup Final in Paris. He’s an incredible player. I have watched that game on video so many times since then, trying to work out what I did wrong. We lost 3-0 but I don’t think now it was my fault. Ronaldo was simply unstoppable. He is so quick he makes everyone else look as if they arestanding still. I hope he really gets fit now because Ronaldo, in full flow, is the most spectacular sight in football.
Pippo Inzaghi never gives you a moment’s rest. You only have to brush against him and he falls over. Then, he always plays right up on the edge of offside. He must be as difficult for a referee’s assistant as he is for a defender. Gabriel Batistuta is equally awkward, for different reasons – and Jan Koller, who’s just joined Dortmund from Anderlecht.
What are their qualities?
Batistuta always gives you a good game. It’s a great battle with him. I think I have won some, while he has scored a few goals at my expense. He’s not as quick as Inzaghi but he’s sharper around goal. As for Koller, he is difficult to control physically.
Batistuta has criticised Italian football as being unbalanced – that victory goes not necessarily to the best but to the most underhand. Is he right?
I have played in Serie A for seven and a half years and I can put my hand on my heart and say that I have never come across anything odd. When I have finished on the losing side it’s usually because we deserved it; occasionally you can blame bad luck but nothing deceitful. If I had come across anything I would have told the authorities. Even doping. That business – with the suspensions of players like our Fernando Couto – has been a terrible mistake.
You are compared with Francesco Totti at Roma because you are both local boys who have always played for one club. Will it stay that way?
We have the same problems. It’s not always easy when you go out. It’s not our own fans who give us problems but the others! You learn to deal with it but it’s not ideal. It restricts what you can do, where you can go. I suppose in another city it might be different – but I have enough to worry about right now playing for Lazio.
This interview appeared in the November 2001 issue of World Soccer.