Kings of Football: Alessandro Del Piero

Alessandro Del Piero is one of, if not the most iconic Juventus player of all time. In 19 years at the club, he experienced it all. Domestic success, European success, and even relegation. He was a technical player and an expert from set pieces. He is 3rd in the Serie A rankings for most goals scored from free kicks, with 22. Only Pirlo and Mihajlovic are ahead of him. He became famous for scoring goals from what became the “Del Piero Zone”. From the edge of the box, Del Piero would cut inside and curl a shot out of the goalkeeper’s reach into the top corner.

Not only was he a pivotal player for Juventus, he became a World Cup winner in 2006 with Italy, scoring in the semi-final against Germany. He will, without a doubt, go down in Italian football history as one of the greatest of his generation.

DEL PIERO’S early JUVENTUS CAREER

Del Piero made his Juventus debut on the 12th of September 1993, coming on as a substitute against Foggia after signing from Padua. He played 14 times, but his breakthrough came in his next season. He scored 8 goals, contributing to Juventus winning a domestic double.  In the 1995-96 season, Del Piero was given the 10 jersey which belonged to Roberto Baggio after he left for AC Milan. Although Juventus came 2nd in the league, Del Piero led the team to the Champions League final, which was won on penalties against Ajax. In this European campaign, Del Piero finished with 6 goals, and another 6 in Serie A.

After claiming the 1996 UEFA Supercup and the 1996 Intercontinental Cup, Del Piero won his 2nd Scudetto with the Bianconeri. In this season, Juventus reached the Champions League final once more. Although Del Piero scored in the final, the team lost 3-1 to Borussia Dortmund. The following season, 1997-98, was perhaps Del Piero’s greatest. He managed 21 Serie A goals, and finished as the top scorer in the Champions League with 10.  Aided by Del Piero’s goals, Juventus won the Serie A and reached the Champions League final. This successful season led to Del Piero claiming the Serie A Italian footballer of the year award.

The Early 00s

Early in the 1998-99 season, Del Piero picked up a serious knee injury which kept him from playing for the rest of the footballing calendar. In the following seasons, he evolved his game and under Carlo Ancelotti he became a provider. In the 1999-00 season, he finished with 14 assists, the league’s highest. Although Del Piero was still individually impressive, between 1998 and 2001, Juventus had less success than in previous years. They missed out on the league 3 years in a row.

In the 2001-02 season, Del Piero, alongside Pavel Nedved and David Trezeguet among others, led Juventus to their 26th Scudetto, his first as captain. Del Piero scored 16 goals and managed 7 assists in Serie A. It was in this season that Del Piero scored his 100th (and 101st) Juventus goal, against Venezia. It seemed his injury woes were finally behind him. The following season was one of mixed emotions. Juventus claimed another successive Scudetto, but lost the Champions League final on penalties to rivals AC Milan.

Juventus were unable to defend their league title or achieve success in Europe the following season. In the 2004-05 season, Del Piero’s 14 league goals led to the club lifting yet another league title. This time, with the help of Del Piero’s 12 goals, Juventus managed to defend their Serie A crown in the 2005-06 season. Unfortunately, due to the Calciopoli scandal, Juventus’ previous 2 titles were stripped, and the Bianconeri were relegated to Serie B.

POST CALCIOPOLI SPELL

Many key players left after the relegation, but captain Del Piero, as well as Buffon, Trezeguet, Nedved and Camoranesi stayed and promised to help the club re-achieve promotion to the top division. With 20 goals, Del Piero finished as top scorer in Serie B, and Juventus were crowned 2006-07 Serie B champions.

Juventus struggled for long periods of time after Calciopoli, however in the 2007-08 season, Del Piero won the Capocannoniere (top scorer in Serie A) award for the first time in his career, with 21 goals. One of Del Piero’s greatest performances came in this time, when he scored two goals against Real Madrid in 2008, leading to him receiving a standing ovation from the crowd in the Santiago Bernabeu. In 2011, Feburary 5th, he overtook Giampiero Boniperti as Juventus’ most capped player.

FINAL SEASON AT JUVENTUS: 2011-12

Del Piero was not offered a new contract by the board coming into this season, meaning the forthcoming 2011-12 season would be his last for the Bianconeri. Under Antonio Conte, his former teammate, Del Piero was used mostly as an impact substitute. Juventus managed to win the league for the first time in years in Del Piero’s final season. In his final game in Serie A, he scored against Atalanta. He received the ball on the edge of the box, and with a deft touch placed the ball in the bottom left corner, leaving no chance for the goalkeeper. He was later substituted and given a standing ovation as he completed a lap of honour. There wasn’t a better way to finish his illustrious Juventus career.

Del Piero finished his Juventus career with 705 appearances, 289 goals and 134 assists in all competitions. He won 6 Serie A titles (8 unofficially), 1 Coppa Italia, 4 Supercoppa Italiana, 1 UEFA Champions League, 1 UEFA Supercup, 1 Intercontinental Cup, 1 UEFA Intertoto Cup and 1 Serie B with Juventus.

POST- JUVENTUS  CAREER

Del Piero went on to spend 2 years in Australia with Sydney FC, scoring 24 goals in 48 games. In addition to this, he was inducted into the Sydney FC hall of fame. After his 2 year spell at Sydney, he played 10 games for the Delhi Dynamos in India.

ITALIAN NATIONAL TEAM

Del Piero had a good international career in addition to his fantastic club career. He is joint 4th top scorer for his country, level with Roberto Baggio, who both managed 21 goals. He appeared in the 1996 European Championships and the 1998 World Cup, but his first tournament with major game time was the 2000 European Championships. Italy lost in the final to France, and Del Piero has expressed remorse about that game after he missed two chances that could have won Italy the game. In the 2002 World Cup he scored a goal to help Italy avoid a first round exit, and was part of the team that was controversially eliminated by South Korea. He also played in Italy’s matches in the 2004 European Championships.

Without a doubt, Del Piero’s greatest international success was winning the World Cup in 2006. He scored in additional time to secure the win in the semi final against Germany, after Grosso’s goal. He also scored a penalty in the final to help Italy win the trophy for the 4th time.

Del Piero will go down in history as one of the greatest Italian players ever, and possibly the best player to ever wear the black and white shirt of Juventus.

 

 

Daniel O'Dowd

Daniel O'Dowd joined GB Articles as a writer in April 2017 and mainly covers Italian Serie A giants Juventus.

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