In signing Alessandro Del Piero, Sydney FC has pulled off the biggest deal in the history of Australian football.
Amid the euphoria, questions have naturally been raised about the wisdom of spending $2 million a season for a player whose best years are no doubt well behind him.
Leaving aside the massive boost of credibility, fan interest and exposure the deal has already done for the league, the thing Sydney FC must get right is ensuring Del Piero is given a chance to perform at his best, thus justifying the club’s spend, on the pitch at least.
The guy isn’t exactly young in football terms and to expect him to play like the Del Piero of 10 or even six years ago would be a grave mistake.
It’s up to the club’s officials and technical staff to make sure Del Piero is given the platform to perform at his best, given he will be 38 years-old by the time he gets to Australia. He cannot be expected to run for 90 minutes, or towel up defenders with his sheer pace like he used to.
The players around him have a role here too. Del Piero’s new team-mates, some of them on salaries barely three per cent of what he is receiving, must buy into what he can bring to the team.
They will be expected to pick up the defensive slack, supply him with the type of service that he can apply his brilliant finishing ability to and support him with intelligent runs.
Their game must be catered to best suit his game and if this happens, barring injuries, his class should be enough, even in the absence of top physical condition, to take Sydney to the top of the A-league heap, assuming opposing defenders refrain from chopping him off on and off the ball.
I am encouraged by the reasoning behind Alessandro Del Piero’s choice. Granted, he will get $4 million for two seasons, with a possible third on top. There aren’t too many things I wouldn’t do in order to earn a couple of million dollars per year.
Living in beautiful Sydney is certainly one of them, but it is worth remembering that Del Piero could have earned the same amount of money a few kilometres from home. We are very lucky that he chose Australia.
Del Piero will be coming with his wife and three children, an indication, one would think, of his commitment to Sydney FC’s cause and his stated desire to improve football in Australia and leave a legacy on the game here.
On the negative side, but only marginally, is the role he played in that hard-to-take defeat Australia was handed by Italy at the 2006 World Cup.
Many Australian football followers have already pointed out in various comments posted on social media sites that Del Piero supposedly “cheated” in the infamous loss that Australia suffered at the hand of Italy in the 2006 World Cup. Some football followers do have long memories.
Forgetting the past, it’s obvious that a player of his calibre will lift Sydney FC to the top of the ladder and the profile of the game in Australia immeasurably.
Sydney FC must be congratulated for what is undoubtedly the greatest acquisition in the history of the A-League.
Managing this acquisition on and off the field will require skills that haven’t always been evident in Australian football. That is undoubtedly the next great challenge.
The response of football lovers, I expect, will surely be positive, at least judging from the reaction of my 12 year old son.
“You must take me to every Del Piero march or I’ll go on my own” he informed me. From someone brought up on Arsenal and Premier League it’s a welcome change.
Hopefully this is the start of even better things to come. Not just for Sydney FC but for the whole of Australian football.
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