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Oct
26

Alessandro the Great

After a fairly lacklustre round of games this weekend, I shall instead cast my mind back to last week in order to write this my maiden post on Pondering Calcio on the latest record achieved by the great Alessandro Del Piero.

I’m thinking, of course, of the goal against Lecce last Sunday that saw Pinturicchio becoming joint top Serie A goal scorer of all time at Juventus along with fellow legend Giampiero Boniperti. The same Boniperti who facilitated his move to juventus in 1993, and earlier this year with joking reluctance testified that the record won’t be shared for long.

And no. 178 was – typically – a very classy goal indeed: After being set up by Krasic (who else?), he did a smart dummy to fixate the defender and then coolly slotted home with his left foot in the near top corner. A vintage ADP goal that – although they have been a bit far between recently, especially from open play – underlines all the qualities of the man: His calm, skill and that lethal shot.

Although Ale will probably never be considered as big a star as his predecessor at Juventus, Roberto Baggio, not to mention icons such as Platini og Zinedine Zidane, he has arguably done more for the Juve cause than those three combined if you look at his tenure at the club. The aforementioned honoraries spent five seasons apiece at Juve and are thus (currently) three seasons shy of the Captain’s reign of eighteen seasons at the club. Of course you can’t measure such things in quantity alone but the figures by themselves surely reveal the immense impact the little guy has had on the big club.

From his comfortable overtaking of the no. 10 jersey from Baggio in a move that many doubted, through his injury in 1998 which caused him to make up for a lack of pace with cunning, his 17 (sic) trophies won the club, his back-to-back capocanonieri titles of serie B and A in ‘07 and ‘08 and his status today as a mature and intelligent bandiera (much like his friend Francesco Totti at Roma – bar the mature and intelligent bit!), Del Piero has been a model professional and an icon for every child with a passion and a dream for almost two decades.

Criticism of his style of play has surfaced over the years from coaches and fans alike, mostly referring to his lack of pace and sometimes ball-hugging manner, but he has only ever responded on the pitch to those negative voices. Except maybe in the national team. Although he’s actually joint fourth in the all time scoring chart of Gli Azurri (alongside Baggio) and has notched up 91 caps, he has struggled to make a truly legendary impact.  It was a wonderful goal he scored against Germany at the 2006 WC, and he surely played an important part in the success in Berlin, but sadly he never really ignited the Azzurri like he did the Bianconeri.

I suspect it is down to his role. Ever since he replaced Baggio at Juve, people were crying for him to be a classic trequartista as he clearly had the technique and flair for such a role. The trouble is: he is not a trequartista! He is a secunda punta, a second striker who thrives in a free role in a 4-4-2 as has been the regular formation at Juventus over the years. Roaming the area behind the prima punta (viz: Trezeguet) he has scored and created countless goals from (especially) left, right and centre at Juve.

For various reasons, however, in the national team he has in later years often been deployed as either a trequartista or a winger, neither of which is his natural position and appeared as a sub more often than not. This is one of the reasons why he is not quite up there with the mega-stars of the game, another being his failing ever to win the Ballon d’Or, which is, retrospectively, an outrage. But then again, if there is a trend to his career, it’s a remarkable consistency rather than extraordinary seasons. And this is also what makes him so dear to all juventini: He is a standard bearer, a legend not only for his many goals and appearances but for his tenacity and spirit. He keeps on delivering the goods. Through thick and thin he is rallying supporters and team mates alike, urging them to give their all for the Juventus cause.  

So, maybe Del Piero is not in the all time top ten of players in the world of your average football fan. Still, in my humble opinion, he is one of the absolute giants of the game, and I consider myself blessed to have been able to follow his career closely, as I wish I could have followed the ones of his legendary ancestors at Juventus, such as Hansen, Boniperti, Platini et al. – and I didn’t even get to mention his incredible set-piece skills, which must rank right up there with the best in the world as well!            

And tell me, honestly, could anyone ask for a better quotation from their Captain than “I’m proud to be a Juventino, to be a “bandiera”, like you often define me to be. In reality I’m just a small part of a big black & white “bandiera” (flag) that grows with the years and if you look closely your name is part of it too… To continue making this “bandiera” grow we need everybody: let’s stay united.”

Recently Del Piero stated that he could go on playing till he’s 40. I for one am hoping he will and thus inspire the new Juventus to replicate his unique humility, dedication and ambition – on and off the pitch.

Photo by Chrystian Cruz

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9 comments

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  1. Nicola says:

    This is one of the best summary on Del Piero that I’ve ever read. As a big Juve fan I can only thank you for this well written article.

    One of the most remarkable thing about him is the humility that he has as a human being. You can heear that clearly when he gives interviews and he never acted as “primadonna” outside the field.

    I wish that he will continue playing for a long time enchanting us with his individual skills and commitment for the team.

    Forza Del Piero! \m/

    1. LAP says:

      Thanks , Nicola.

      Always a pleasure recollecting the antics of a true legend! I hope You’ll stay tuned for more posts – and don’t be affraid to comment!

  2. Gasbarroni says:

    I’m usually against former players taking up an administrative role at a club when their careers are over, and I’m against Nedved’s return to the club as a board member. When it comes to Del Piero it is an entirely different matter. He can and should be part of the club forever.

    A true club legend!

  3. Sally says:

    Why are you against Nedved returning as a board member? Curious

    1. Gasbarroni says:

      Because I fail to see what he can contribute with other than satisfying a group of fans who adore him.

      It is not that he knows anything about running a football club, and you can hardly call him a symbol of the club as he spent most of his career elsewhere.

      The question implicitly suggest that you support his inclusion on the board. May I ask you why?

      1. LAP says:

        I’ll just bust into this debate:

        I actually think it’s a good idea to include Nedved and of course Marotta in the new and expanded board. They are there to be heard regarding the football and player related issues, which I think can only be a good thing as it was clear that Blanc/Secco could have used some advice in that department …

        I doubt Nedved is going to have a lot to say about the financial issues, which is clearly a matter for the businessmen in there and which I’m certain they’ll handle in a qualified way, as they have done since 2006 (cf. http://swissramble.blogspot.com/2010/09/has-old-lady-been-rejuvenated.html?utm_source=BP_recent – a wonderfully thorough look at juve’s present economy)

        I gather he’s included primarily to provide a link between the players/staff and the board so as to make sure that the club continues to be coherent and united at every level. Hardly a bad thing?

        1. Gasbarroni says:

          But does he really need to be a member of the board to fulfill that role?

          A year ago he turned down a job in the coaching staff. A job that I believe would suit him better.

          Now he gets a fine title and perhaps more money and less work, so he accept.

          I do not hold that against him, though. I would’ve done the same.

          As I see it, it’s a publicity stunt. Nothing more, nothing less. And I must admit that his inclusion seems to have been well received by the majority of fans, so if it doesn’t cost the club a lot of money, it is difficult for me to criticize it. That does, however, not change the fact that, in principal, I’m against it.

          What about Buffon, will there be a similar role for him?

          Yeah, I’ve seen that link (not the one Nedved is set to establish). Nice work , although not all of it is entirely accurate. I will not get into this now, but for interested Danish speaking readers my comments can be found here(fourth post):

          http://www.bold.dk/snak/index.php?action=thread&id=1190160&start=3060

  4. LAP says:

    Okay, so you’re basically opposing the idea of an ex-player being drafted for a position on the board (excluding ADP, I gather). While I can see your point from a rigid meritocratic angle concerning financial abilities, it seems you place very little value on precisely the point of him being there, i.e. in a sort of double representative’s role: linking the dressing room to the board and linking the board to the fans.

    Even assuming this is his only function in there, I’d say his presence is merited as I believe that these are important areas for the unity and cohesion of the club (and I have no reason to believe his salary should be unreasonable, do you?). You could call it a publicity stunt or a media event (it is that too, to be sure), but is positive media attention or pleasing the fans bad things per se?

    Anyway, we don’t really know the qualities of Pavel the Suit as of yet. If he does his job poorly, I guess we’ll get rid of him. If he, on the other hand, turns out to have what it takes, he just might follow the path of not a few other former players prolonging their careers in suits (our Platini being the rather obvious example, or Boniperti, or Bettega, or Pesotto etc.). We’ll have to wait and see about that.

    As for Buffon in there, I don’t see it coming as it’s not really his style, but in principle I have no problem utilizing our former players in some position or other – as long as we benefit from it in some way (and I guess this is where you’re the sceptic and I’m the optimist). If you browse the staff and executives of practically any club, there’ll be ex-players all over the place, as is common in sports in general because of the experience (some) players can contribute with – on many different levels. In some cases I guess these guys are there in name only or are bad at their jobs, but mostly I’m guessing they fill the role designated for them. Don’t you agree?

    P.S:

    I must have a look at that link. Rather shocking if the Rambler turns out not to be infallible after all :-)

  5. Sally says:

    As mentioned above I think he’d have very little to do with running the club per se, he’s more of a mediator between the team and the board. Although I know none of the players personally Nedved of all people does not seem to strike me as one who would just take up a job for the money or status though, I think he simply loves the game or football too much – he visits Juve after retiring before being appointed, plus I remember reading his teammates’ comments – Ale if I recall correctly being one of them – about how he’s the hardest trainer while he was still playing for Juve… surely from all we’ve seen of Pavel, he has more heart than merely taking the job for the money/status?

    You may be right in saying that maybe the board appointed him to please the fans rather than out of necessity. But it being Pavel, god forbid he does his job badly, I reckon is not too bad. I may be idealistic, but after Calciopoli we have to start from scratch and the team is young (and not referring to just age here), I think having a figure like Pavel would do the team good. Furthermore Pessotto seems to be doing fine in management, here’s hoping all works out same/better for La Furia Ceca…

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