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Costacurta Still Holding Back The Years
5.3 || Seamus

"Age shall not weary them" seems to be the new moto at AC Milan these days, after the club announced that 36-year-old Alessandro Costacurta had signed a new contract, while 34-year-old Paolo Maldini was in talks over a one-year deal.

Both players, along with Franco Baresi and Mauro Tassotti formed the invincible back line of Milan in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Their legendary meanness along with their introduction of a zonal system under Arrigo Sacchi made them the most feared back four in the world game. Opponents would spend entire games being flagged offside as Baresi gave the signal to step up and raised his hand in the air.

While those days have passed into club legend, Costacurta shows no signs of going quietly as he approaches his forties. The Varese-born centre back has provided effective cover for the first choice back four of Simic, Nesta, Maldini and Kaladze this season, and his form and fitness have spurred Milan into offering him a new contract, which he was happy to sign.

It marks a glorious turnaround for the man known as Billy, who was certain that his career was finished with Milan in the summer, when the club released him at the end of his contract. Feeling that he had a few more tackles in him Costacurta was close to signing with Major League Soccer in the USA and a move to Derby County was also suggested, though swiftly disregarded.

At some point in the close season though, Milan had a change of heart and asked him to return to add depth to the defence. His old mate Franco Baresi helped him regain his match fitness by giving him a game for the youth team, meaning a 15-year-old striker found himself being marked by a man with nearly 400 Serie A games under his belt.

The trial separation over Costacurta and Milan took up where they had left off. As well as providing cover for the back four, his input on the training ground has been important, as Milan's defence has tightened up considerably, providing the basis for their current pursuit of Serie A, the Champions League and the Coppa Italia.

Such silverware is commonplace to Costacurta by now though. Perhaps the least heralded of the famous back four, his career at Milan began back in 1987, when after a loan spell at nearby Monza, he broke into the first team under Sacchi. Since then he has ever-present in the Milan back line, winning six league titles, or Scudetti and three European Cups. During a long and distinguished international career he won 59 caps.

The news will be a boost to Milan as they seek to shake off the new year torpor that has threatened to undermine their campaign. However, Serie A goalkeepers will not be losing too much sleep. Over the past sixteen years the defender has stuck to his task at the back, racking up a grand total of two goals in 396 league performances. His last strike came in November 1991, against Roma. Perhaps he is due one.

By Oliver Thompson

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