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Thursday, 9 November 2017

Alessandro del Piero – World Cup winner

Former striker is all-time record goalscorer for Juventus


Alessandro del Piero played for 19 seasons at Juventus, scoring 290 goals
Alessandro del Piero played for 19 seasons
at Juventus, scoring 290 goals
The retired footballer Alessandro del Piero, who won the World Cup with Italy in 2006 and holds the club records for most goals (290) and most appearances (705) for Juventus, was born on this day in 1974 in Conegliano in the Veneto.

Regarded as one of Italy’s greatest players, his overall goals tally of 346 in Italian football in all competitions has been bettered only once in history, by Silvio Piola, who was a member of Italy’s winning team in the 1938 World Cup and who scored 390 goals in his career.  Del Piero also finished his career having scored at least one goal in every competition in which he took part.

Del Piero was a member of six Serie A title-winning Juventus teams between 1995 and 2012 and would have had eight winner’s medals had the club not been stripped of the 2005 and 2006 titles due to the so-called Calciopoli corruption scandal.

He also won a Champions League medal in 1996 after Marcello Lippi’s team beat Ajax on penalties to lift the trophy in Rome.

Del Piero played in three World Cups but was never able to reproduce his club form more than fleetingly in any of them.  He started only one match in the 2006 triumph of the Azzurri in Germany.

Del Piero leaving the stadium after his  World Cup semi-final goal against Germany
Del Piero leaving the stadium after his
World Cup semi-final goal against Germany
Nonetheless, he came off the bench in extra time to score the important second goal in the epic semi-final victory against the hosts.  In the final, against France, again a substitute, he scored from the penalty spot as Italy put together a perfect shoot-out to win 5-3 on penalties.

The son of an electrician, Gino, and his wife, Bruna, Del Piero dreamed of being a footballer but at one time considered a career as a lorry driver, because he thought it might provide his best chance of seeing other countries.

The family lived in Saccon, a hamlet outside Conegliano, and he played for his local youth team in San Vendemiano. He initially played in goal, which pleased his mother as she imagined there was less chance he would be injured, before he was persuaded by his brother, Stefano, that he would be wasted as a goalkeeper as he was as skilful as any of the team’s outfield players, if not better.

Stefano, who played professionally himself for Sampdoria before injury curtailed his career, went on to become his brother’s agent.

Del Piero’s first senior club was Padova, whose youth set-up he joined at the age of 13, making his senior debut aged 16 and his Serie B debut aged 17 in March 1992.  He scored his first senior goal in November of the same year.

Juventus signed him in 1993 for the sum of five billion lire and he would remain with the Turin side for 19 seasons under 11  managers, including Giovanni Trapattoni, who gave him his debut, Lippi, Carlo Ancelotti, Fabio Capello, Didier Deschamps, Claudio Ranieri and Antonio Conte.

Del Piero played for Sydney FC in Australia after ending his time at Juventus in 2012
Del Piero played for Sydney FC in Australia after
ending his time at Juventus in 2012
It was clear from the start that he was going to be a goalscoring sensation.  He scored his first goal for the club on his second appearance as a substitute and marked his first start for the senior team with a hat-trick.

When Lippi succeeded Trapattoni, Del Piero began to play regularly after Roberto Baggio suffered a serious injury, taking his place alongside Gianluca Vialli and Fabrizio Ravanelli and scoring eight goals as Juventus won the Serie A title for the first time in nine years.

There were similarities between his style of play and that of Baggio.  Both were technically very accomplished and both had the imagination to create goalscoring opportunities for themselves and others.  Gianni Agnelli, the club’s patriarchal former president, nicknamed him Pinturicchio after a Renaissance artist on the basis that his nickname for Baggio was Rafaello – Raphael – and Pinturicchio had been Raphael’s pupil.

In 19 seasons, inevitably, there were ups and downs, managers who appreciated his qualities and others who were less enthusiastic, but he inevitably retained the affection of the fans, not least when, as captain, he chose to remain with the club after their enforced relegation following the Calciopoli scandal, when many other stars left. He insisted that he owed the Agnelli family a debt of loyalty and would lead them back from Serie B to Serie A, which he did at the first attempt despite starting the season with a nine-point deduction.

It was Antonio Conte, his former team-mate, who would call time on Del Piero’s Juventus career when he announced at the start of the 2011-12 season that he would be using the player, by then almost 37, only sparingly.  Later in the season the club announced he would be released at the end of the campaign.

Del Piero stayed loyal to Juventus even in difficult times
Del Piero stayed loyal to Juventus even
in difficult times
Nonetheless, he scored some important goals, including one, against Lazio in April 2012, that would enable them to go top of the table on the way to regaining the title.  Ironically, he had come on as a half-time substitute for Mirko Vucinic, the Montenegrin striker Conte had signed as his replacement.

He made his final appearance in a Serie A match on May 13 against Atalanta, in the last match of the season and with the title already won.  He scored – his 208th league goal for the club – and when he was substituted he received an ovation from fans and both sets of players that went on for so long the match had to be halted as he completed a lap of honour.  There were similar scenes when he was taken off towards the end of the Coppa Italia final a few days later, his last match in the famous black and white shirt.

He played on for a couple of seasons in Australia and India on lucrative contracts before hanging up his boots for good in 2015. Since then he has pursued his interest in music – he is a friend of the musician Noel Gallagher, of Oasis fame – and done considerable work with charities.  He has made many appearances on television and is currently a regular pundit on Sky Sport Italia.

Married since 2005 to Sonia Amoruso, he has three children, sons Tobias and Sasha and a daughter, Dorotea.

One of Conegliano's ancient gates
One of Conegliano's ancient gates
Travel tip:

Conegliano is a town of almost 35,000 people in the Veneto, about 30km (19 miles) north of Treviso.  The remains of a 10th century castle, once owned by the Bishop of Vittorio Veneto, stands on a hill that dominates the town.  Conegliano is at the centre of a wine-producing region and is famous in particular for Prosecco, the popular sparkling wine made from the glera grape.

Travel tip:

Padua, known as Padova in Italian, where Del Piero began his career, is a city in the Veneto known among other things for the frescoes by Giotto in the  Scrovegni Chapel and the huge 13th-century Basilica di Sant’Antonio, with its seven Byzantine-style cupolas and four cloisters. The basilica contains many notable artworks and the saint’s tomb. The town itself is particularly appealing for its arcaded streets and stylish cafes.


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