Undeniably, Italy has produced many great players in the world of football. From legends like Sandro Mazzola, Roberto Baggio, Giuseppe Meazza, Paolo Maldini and Francesco Totti, to Alessandro Del Piero. Of all the players lauded as being legends in the world’s biggest sport, Del Piero is commonly referred to as “Il Pinturicchio,” after the great Italian Renaissance artist due to his creative expression of the game made evident in every move he made on the pitch. He is not only recognized for his career accomplishments, but also for his style, charisma and technical aptitude.
The Making of a Legend
The story of Del Piero began in 1974, in Conegliano, a town of the Veneto region, in the Italian province of Treviso. His father was an electrician, his mother a housekeeper. His brother, Stefano, briefly played professional football with Sampdoria, before career-ended injuries drew him off the pitch. He later came to manage Alessandro’s rise to stardom. Allessandro started his football career with San Vendemiano, a local youth team, as a goalkeeper. His brother believed that he was more useful in an offensive position. It was then that Alessandro shifted to a forward position.
He was an extremely perceptive player with exceptional free-kick abilities. His creativity, intuition and executive function of being able to see ahead of the play and make quick, decisive action resulted in abundant goals and assists. He was quickly noticed and made his debut with Juventus in 1993 entering the pitch as a substitute against Foggia. Del Piero made a grand entrance. In his first start for the club, he scored a hat trick against Parma.
His passing, ball control, and dribbling skills unfailingly impacted the team’s success. Alessandro Del Piero is widely considered one of the game’s most legendary and fascinating maestros of the modern era. As an inventive striker, he has been a key player in world-class teams alongside Zinedine Zidane and Roberto Baggio.
A Gentleman Footballer
His career was surrounded by success. In January 2006, Del Piero became the all-time leading goalscorer for Juventus when he scored a hat trick in a Coppa Italia match against Fiorentina, taking his total goal tally for the club to 185. In 2007, after the relegation, many key players decided to leave Juventus, but Del Piero decided to stay stating, “A true gentleman never leaves his lady and a true sportsman never leaves his club.“ The loyalty of this true TENLEGEND in staying with the club when it would have been easier and more profitable to leave, will always be remembered by Juventus fans. Del Piero is Juventus's most capped player. He is also the beloved club’s all-time top scorer at 290 total goals.
The Champions League match of the 2008/09 season against Real Madrid is embedded in the hearts and minds of football lovers around the world. Following an outstanding performance that left the entire audience stunned, as Del Piero left the field to be replaced by Paolo De Ceglie in the 90th minute, the entire Santiago Bernabeu stadium paid homage to him out of pure respect for the Juventus captain.
“This is an amazing feeling in football. Scoring two goals and winning a big game, then getting applause from opposing supporters is a very unexpected thing. Amazing!” Del Piero said. “You must live for a night like this. It has unique emotions in it. I am happy to see that the whole stadium gave me a standing ovation when I left the field,” Del Piero continued.
Juventus - Del Piero’s First Love
After having been with the Bianconeri for most of his career, there was a disconcerting fact that going into his last season, the club had not offered him a new contract. In an interview with Il Corriere della Sera (via Football Italia), he revealed that he had not been approached by President Andrea Agnelli or the club’s leadership team.
“I’ve never received such an offer and I am happy with what I am doing now. I would not want to have a role just for what I did in the past. That will remain forever and nobody could ever change it. The same is true of my bond with Juventus. I want to be considered for who I am now and what I can give.”
The Juventus board proposed retiring the number 10 in Del Piero’s honor, but he refused out of kindness, saying, “I’ve really had so much that I would never want it to be retired. This way, every child can dream of the day of wearing it.” He then wrote an open letter to fans stating, “Above all what remains is the fans, you who are Juventus. That jersey that I loved and will always love, that I desired and respected … From tomorrow I will no longer be a Juventus player, but I will always be one of you. Now a new adventure begins and I am as fired up as I was 19 summers ago.”
On 5th September 2012, he signed a 2-year contract with the Australian side Sydney FC.
In October 2015, following a short stay in the newly formed Indian league, Del Piero decided to bring a conclusion to a memorable career and officially retired from football as a professional player.
Del Piero scored 27 goals in 91 appearances for the Azzurri from 1995-2008. With his National team, in addition to reaching the finals in the 2000 Euro Cup, they achieved the ultimate success of winning the 2006 FIFA World Cup. At the club level, he played for Padova (1991-93), Juventus (1993-12), Sydney (2012-14) and Delhi Dynamos (2014).
Del Piero has done it all, from the 1996 Champion's League cup, the Intercontinental Cup and eight Scudetti Serie A Championships with Juventus, to Italy's 2006 World Cup victory. He has also suffered it all-the agony of several runners-up trophies, of debilitating injuries and Juventus's relegation. In total, he has played 796 matches and scored 316 goals with Juventus and the Italian national team, and doesn’t seem a day older.
He is now also an owner of a small soccer club based in Los Angeles, as well as working with ESPN and operating his restaurant, N10. It seems he never slows down. Del Piero initially kept his involvement in LA10 FC private but then decided to go public after the team went undefeated this season, won its division and was promoted to the highest level of the United Premier Soccer League. In whatever comes next for Del Piero, we hold him in the highest regard - a legend as a player and forever a gentleman footballer in our hearts and minds.
Be a TENLEGEND