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Del Piero: One of the modern greats

Alessandro Del Piero has just commenced his 21st professional season and his 19th with current team Juventus.

Not quite a one-club man, few players are more synonymous with their clubs than the Italian legend. In a career that saw him reach the pinnacle of the game in the 2006 World Cup and experience the embarrassment of demotion with Juventus, Del Piero has established himself as one of the greats of the modern game.

Originally brought into the Juventus side to play a supporting role to strikers Gianluca Vialli and Fabrizio Ravanelli, Del Piero has been surrounded by quality from the outset. A hat-trick on his first start made Juventus fans take note, a first Scudetto in eight years had them proclaiming a new hero. Ever since then, Del Piero has made the ‘trequartista’ or second striker role his own.

Over the next few years, Del Piero caught the eye of most with a series of great goals and assists. Along with Roberto Baggio’s exploits, Del Piero’s form coincided with a very successful spell for Juventus during which time the Bianconeri won seven league titles in 13 years.

Del Piero also helped Juventus defeat Ajax in the 1996 Champions League final, yet could not help avoid defeat in the final a year later to Borussia Dortmund in what would have capped an historic treble for Juventus, nor the year later to Real Madrid.

For all the great attackers he has played with at Juventus – Baggio, Zidane, Inzaghi, Nedved, Trezeguet, Ibrahimovic to name the best – it is Del Piero who remains and outlasts them all. Not only in terms of his loyalty to the club, but also in the form of many records he holds.

Del Piero is the most capped Juventus player of all time with 494 appearances, and the leading goalscorer in the club’s history with 205 goals. Though he is 36 now, Del Piero has declared the ambition to play for Juventus until he is 40 and so is fully capable of adding to those impressive statistics.

Paradoxical year 

2006 was a paradoxical year for Del Piero. After Juventus were crowned Serie A champions in May, the former Padova striker followed up this success with victory with Italy at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Despite playing a big part, Del Piero’s summer was marred by Juventus’ involvement in match-fixing allegations.

The Calciopoli scandal of 2006 that saw Juventus stripped of their Serie A title and demoted to Serie B was a low point for Del Piero. Though more accurately, it was a high point. Laudably deciding to stick by the club and vocal in his desire for others to follow suit, the striker showed his class by finishing top of the scoring charts with 21 goals. As others fled, Del Piero defiantly stayed and enabled Juventus to return to Serie A as champions and move on from the incident.

Having realised his boyhood dream of winning the World Cup just weeks previously, Juventus’ demotion brought Del Piero crashing back to earth with a bang. The loyalty, character and ultimately, the ability he demonstrated during the club’s darkest times forever bound him close to the hearts of Juventus fans.

The next year, Del Piero followed this up with his highest Serie A haul with 21 goals. This was the first and only time in his career that Del Piero topped the Serie A scoring charts - the most vital factor in Juventus’ impressive third place finish that season.

Despite an indifferent international career, Del Piero has had several great memories with Italy. A last minute goal to secure a 2-0 World Cup semi-final victory against hosts Germany being the highlight.

Del Piero’s legacy in Italian and European football is beyond doubt. He has even trademarked a goal: time after time he would cut in from the left and clip the ball into the top right corner. After spending so many years at Juventus, it seems inevitable that Del Piero will one day move into a higher role at the club, ultimately one day you’d imagine, managing the Turin club.

By Chris Smith 


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