More than just a player

Posted on 19/10/2010


Alessandro Del Piero may continue to have his critics but, as Antonio Labbate writes, there is no doubting his legendary status at Juventus

If Giampiero Boniperti today has to share his club record 178 goals in Serie A with Alessandro Del Piero then he really has no one else to blame but himself. Working for his beloved Juventus, the club he served so loyally as a player, it was Boniperti who was responsible for the capture of Ale in 1993.

“It was clear from the start that Alessandro had the stuff of champions,” Boniperti recalled earlier this year. “He was young, but he had technique and class. I remember going to watch him, of how well Franco Causio and Cestmir Vycpalek spoke of him, of the blitz we had to take in order to sign him. The Padova President at the time was a Milan fan and he wanted to sell him to the Rossoneri.”

That was 17 years ago, now the eternal Del Piero stands shoulder to shoulder with Boniperti, fresh from taking another club record away from the legend who so famously ended his Juve career in 1961. Handing his boots over to one of the club’s staff after that infamous 9-1 win over Inter, he said: “Put these away, I won’t be needing them again.”

Boniperti was just shy of his 33rd birthday at the time, a fact he has reminded people this weekend after Del Piero, who is approaching 36, banged in top-flight League goal 178 against Lecce at the Olimpico on Sunday.

“I scored my first goal in Serie A with my left foot too,” noted the modern day hero, who opened his Bianconeri account with a strike in a victory against Reggiana. “That goal made it 4-0 as well which is a pleasing analogy. I have to admit that scoring my 178th Serie A goal for Juve is satisfying on a personal level.”

Yesterday’s latest milestone was further proof, if it was needed, that Del Piero is part of calcio royalty. It was also the most recent demonstration that he still has something to offer this new and changing Juventus, even though he’s not the athlete he once was.

“It has been a few years now that I don’t think about the people who say I’m finished,” the 2006 World Cup winner explained. “I just prefer to respond on the field of play and think about the people who are close to me, those who suffer and celebrate with me.”

It has been easy to criticise Del Piero in later career. I myself have done it. I won’t hide the fact that there were times in the past where I believed that the affection and bond between club and player, while charming, was a hindrance to the future of the club. After all, not even the great  Pinturicchio can stop the sands of time.

The reality though, as Del Piero continues to illustrate, is that he has a role to play for  La Vecchia Signora. Sure, he’s no longer the player of 1998 when he was arguably the world’s best – yes, he was that good – but in a game where ordinariness is often escalated to grandeur, the boy from Conegliano can still make a difference.

Whatever your opinion of Del Piero the player, a forward who has probably been overvalued and under appreciated in equal quantities, it is his  Juventinità which allows him to compete with Boniperti in the annals of history. In Ale’s world, much like in that of Boniperti’s, the Turin giants are not simply a football club – for him, Juve are yesterday, today and, significantly, tomorrow.

Source: Football-Italia

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