Can it be true? That was the typical question posed by a member of the Twitterati seconds after it was posted that Alessandro Del Piero is coming to Sydney after all.
It seems (as I write) that it IS true, though these things can always change. I remember many years ago us getting all sexed up about Rene Houseman having signed for a Sydney club. You remember Rene Houseman? Wonderful player. Argentinian. Not quite a Del Piero but good. Knew how to nutmeg people. Did it for a hobby.
But it didn’t happen. We were all left terribly limp and deflated.
We don’t want Alessandro the great to be another Houseman, please not. Getting that limp twice in one lifetime would be just too much.
The excitement surrounding the Del Piero signing, real or just looming, is almost overbearing. You’d think the man invented oxygen or, more remarkable still, is a Leo Messi at 37. Or is it 38?
No matter. I am among the titillated.
There are many things that make this so, among them remembering Roberto Baggio as one of the greatest of all time and wondering, while watching him, what the world would be like post-Baggio. Instant death in those days had one big down side – there would be no Baggio in the afterlife.
Then suddenly, from out of nowhere, popped up Alessandro Del Piero, slipping smoothly into the Baggio role at Juventus almost as though the great Roberto had been warming the seat for him. Life was worth living again.
Why the fuss?
Well, being a young fella I never got a chance to see Piola or Meazza. Or Giovanni Ferrari who, I am told, was quite something. So for me Del Piero is one of the five best, most creative Italian attacking players of all time, the others being Gianni Rivera, Baggio, Gianfranco Zola and Andrea Pirlo. My opinion but I’m sticking to it.
In his prime, ADP was a magic name in the annals of the world game, an attraction for which one would cross the street and pay the admission fee (which is saying something by a media man accustomed to getting free tickets).
He was awesome as a source of entertainment. Not just a scorer of great goals but a creator of dazzling improvisation and wit. I recall laughing out loud in commentary as he took the mickey and swept past a Manchester United defender in a Champions League game in the 90s.
The Marcello Lippi-led Juventus win of the Champions League in 1996 was as much down to Del Piero as it was to Lippi or any of his illustrious team mates, among them Gianluca Vialli, Fabrizio Ravanelli or Didier Dechamps. This is the company he kept and among whom he excelled.
At Juve he was dubbed Il Pinturicchio by club president Gianni Agnelli in reference to the great Renaissance artist, and Il Fenomeno Vero (the Real Phenomenon) by fans who reckoned him to be better than Ronaldo.
Del Piero is a true marquee in A-League terms in comparison to most others before him, and I’m talking not just about Brian Deane, the immobile telegraph pole once contracted as such at Perth Glory.
Indeed it would be fair to say that there were only four in seven seasons before him who were true to the spirit of the marquee player rule: Yorke, Juninho, Fowler and Kewell. Now we will have Del Piero, one of the planet’s great players of the past 20 years.
Del Piero is 37 but so what?
Ryan Giggs is even older and he plays first team football at Manchester United. It’s not how young you are but how well you play with the ball, what player intelligence you have and how well you bend those free kicks (and this boy bends them arguably better than Beckham).
Sure, like all imports, he will keep a young local on the bench but consider the counter-benefits. Consider what Sydney FC’s budding youngsters will gain by training and playing with him and by watching him practise those curlers into the top corner.
Consider the thousands of extra bums he’ll put on seats, including mine. Hell, I’ll even consider attending Sydney FC training sessions now and I don’t venture as far as North Ryde much these days if I can help it.
Well done Sydney FC. Well done David Traktovenko, Scott Barlow, Tony Pignata, Lou Sticca and anybody else who may have played a role in this deal and with financing it.
Signing a Del Piero, $2 million a season or not, is not just an expense. It’s an investment in excitement Sydney FC and the A-League as a whole have needed and will always need.
On his appointment, Sydney FC coach Ian Crook said the club wanted not just bums on seats but spectators, who will jump out of those seats with delight and exhilaration. He may have his man.
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