Growing up a Juventino in the city of Turin there was only one name you needed to know Alessandro Del Piero. You entered the stadium every Sunday hearing 40,000 fans screaming “ C’e un capitano, C’e solo un capitano, Alex Del Piero,” (there is a captain, only one captain), it was riveting, exciting and a joy to behold for a player that only represented one club for 19 years of competitive football. It wasn’t just his ability to pass through defenders like a magician with an invisible ball at his feet, or his ability to score when his team needed him, it was also the class he represented off the field. Unlike the Totti’s, or Cassano’s or Balotelli’s of our generation, Del Piero lived a simple life of an man who exhibits the characteristics the game needs today. He was a fighter, a leader and an incredible player to watch.
He was signed by Juventus at the age of 16 in 1993. He was brought into the team to replace the legendary Roberto Baggio who was slowly creeping towards his peak. He was a champion of every competition available to him in Italy- the champions league, Coppa Italia(2 times), Supercoppa (4 times), Serie A (9 times), the FIFA World Cup and the most prestigious competition in the world, the 2006 World Cup.
For all the 19 seasons that Ale would spend with the Bianconeri, he set records in all aspects of the game. He leaves Juventus as the all time leading top scorer with 289 goals, a record that was once held by the former Juventus President Giampiero Boniperti. Alessadndro Del Piero is the all time leading scorer for Juventus in all other important competitions as well, such as Champions League (45 goals), UEFA Competitions (53 goals), add to this, the most capped player in the history of Juventus (704 matches played), a record that was once written in the name of another Juventus legend – Gaetano Scirea (552 matches played).
He had the ability the change the course of a game with the snap of his fingers, the precious Serie A winning goal against Fiorentina in 1994, the lovely back-heel goal against Borussia Dortmund in the finals of the Champions League, the only goal against River Plate that would secure Juventus the Intercontinental Cup and the many of his trademark freekick goals.
There’s no end to the happiness he gave as an obsessed teenage fan. There are moments that I will never forget being in the stands to witness history. My three great memories of Del Piero are moments that I couldn’t replicate even if I tried.
- The first moment is the one most dear to me at the Santiago Bernabau. Juventus were travelling to Real Madrid to play the Galacticos without our star winger Pavel Nedved. It was a game that looked like a crushing in the making against a team that had Zidane, Robinho, Sneijder, Robben, Ramos, Casillas, Van Nistelrooy, the list was endless but when he played that night, they stood no chance. It was Del Piero’s night, after a stunning goal with his left foot and a free kick perfectly placed in the bottom left corner Madrid stood no chance coming back, and Del Piero received a standing ovation in front of a crowd of 80,000 people. It was something I had never witnessed before, incredible.
2. The second moment was during the semi-final of the 2006 World Cup, Italy was playing in a match against Germany that the Germans were convinced was in the bag. Germany was playing incredible football while also having home field advantage. In addition, Beckenbauer before the game described it as “a walk in the park.” I managed to go to the match, and the stands were covered in German Pride, screaming at the top of their lungs. The game went to extra time until Italy scored in the 118 minute through a goal by Fabio Grosso. It was a common Italian match, constantly on there back foot, waiting for the counter attack, so even after Italy scored it still seemed like Germany would be able to crawl its way back, but then this happened…….
Never have I been to a 60,000 seat stadium and been able to hear nothing but the away team screaming in rejoice. The silence was incredible. Alex had done it again. The head coach of Italy, Marcello Lippi once said of him “Del Piero is a champion, when he is selected he never disappoints. He is an example to us all. He has great skills and intuitions that few other players have. He is a captain in the real sense of the word”.
3. The third moment was his magnificent double against Lazio in Torino, it capped a crucial must win, and while Del Piero only had two shots in the entire game he managed to score on both of them. He scored a stunning free kick that ultimately led to us winning our first title since 2005. After the game, I managed to speak to him, he came up to me and said “ don’t ever stop dreaming, growing up in Padova I never thought I would have the chance the score a game winner in front of 40,000 people, always go for it!!” He took off his shirt and signed it “devi sempre provare” – you must always go for it.
(His trademark celebration)
Still, after all that’s said and done, nothing of his contribution to make Juventus the most prestigious club in Europe today, matches his devotion to the “Old Lady” when relegated in Serie B, by the infamous scandal of Calciopoli.
It was in 2006, that he made his mark as the greatest Juventino ever. As Juventus were entering the purgatory of Serie B, many of the key players left Torino, while Del Piero announced that he would stay and captain them in Serie B and help the team regain promotion, explaining how important this was for “the Agnelli family and the fans who truly deserve it”. He said “Un cavaliere non lascia mai una Signora” which means a soldier never leaves it Miss’s. He was a player that always put the team ahead of him and he will be greatly missed forever because of it.