Dwight Yorke – the most memorable marquee to grace the A-League – says Alessandro Del Piero will give the competition back its missing spark.
The former Aston Villa and Manchester United maestro, who led Sydney FC to the inaugural A-League title in a one-season wonder show, claims the Italian World Cup winner will bring the bling back to Sydney – and breathe oxygen into the A-League as a whole.
Del Piero and his entourage jets into Sydney on Sunday morning to an expected rapturous welcome at the international airport as he embarks on his Australian adventure.
“Alessandro has been one of the best players in Europe for years and though he is 37 now he’s going to be a massive presence in Australia," ex-Sky Blues skipper Yorke said.
“In football terms he’s coming to the end of his career but he will lift standards the moment he arrives in the Sydney FC dressing room.
“In some ways it will be a culture shock for him, coming from Juventus to Sydney.
“No disrespect to Sydney FC, and I still have great affection for the club, but there is no comparison between them and Juventus.
“The quality he is used to at Juventus won’t be there but the one thing is for sure he will bring the spark back to the club and give it the excitement factor it’s been lacking these past few years – both on and off the field. The same goes for the A-League as a whole.
“I have played against him a few times and he’s a great personality and everybody in and around the club will embrace him and he will do likewise.”
Yorke, who brought razzle-dazzle to Sydney with his craft and charisma before departing after one season as the club reined in its budget, believes Del Piero is the best thing to happen to the competition since, well, him.
“When I was with Sydney it was a new competition and there was a great level of excitement and anticipation and I hope I did my bit to deliver on that,” Yorke said.
“Since then the standard has tailed off a little and Sydney haven’t captured the imagination like they used to and the crowds have reflected that.
“Bringing in a player like Del Piero could change all that. He’s done everything in football that can be done and the now the challenge for him is to use the force of his personality and his football to win the trust of the people of Sydney – and I believe he will bring the crowds back to the club.
“I don’t see his age being a factor because he’s come from such a high standard and I feel he will find it reasonably easy to play the way he wants to. Somebody with his class and elegance will thrive and he will raise the bar."
Now a pundit with British pay-tv channel Sky and an ambassador for Manchester United, Yorke believes Sydney FC's marquee man can breathe new life into the competition.
“This could be like a rebirth for the competition," he said.
Lou Sticca, the agent responsible for procuring first Yorke and now Del Piero, says he used Yorke’s brief stay as a selling point to entice Del Piero.
“Dwight did the A-League a huge service and he’s been the benchmark for marquee players into his country," he said.
“Part of the selling process in getting Del Piero interested was the Yorke factor, so in that sense he played a significant part in giving the league credibility and also playing a part in persuading Del Piero to come here.”
Del Piero will arrive with a significant support cast, including his wife, three children, two nannies and a personal trainer. It doesn’t end there, though, with his brother and agent Stefano, and his lawyer, arriving next week for an extended stay.
Yorke flew solo to Australia but this is a very different scenario with the Del Piero entourage rounding out to nine and Sydney FC taking on the logistical role of catering to them all.
Promising striker Tomi Juric has been lured to Western Sydney Wanderers on a two-year deal as coach Tony Popovic sets about tweaking his Premiers’ Plate winning side for next season.