When looking for a current day European football legend to inspire us all, whilst setting a superb example to young players, what better place to start than with Italy's Alessandro Del Piero? Last weekend the Italian legend celebrated his 34th birthday in style by scoring a typically inspired goal against Chievo. He is most definitely Italy's and European football's man of the moment.
His record speaks for itself in that he has played over 550 matches for the Italian giants and has been capped by his country on 91 occasions.
It is a wonderful achievement by a player that has remained loyal to his team Juventus for fifteen years. His presence is such that it is hard to imagine seeing the Turin club without him being involved.
Alessandro was born on November 9th 1974 in Conegliano, Italy. He spent his teenage years learning his skills at local youth club AC San Vendemiano. In 1991 he joined Padova, then in Serie B (Italian second division), for whom he made 14 appearances, scoring 1 goal. He quickly attracted the attention of one of Italy’s most successful clubs, Juventus, and by September 1993 he was making his debut in the famous black and white striped shirt against Foggia.
His first goal for Juve came the following week when he came on as a substitute against Reggiana. His first full start came against Parma, with Del Piero showing the world exactly what he could do with a stunning hat-trick. His goals would go on to help Juventus claim their first Scudetto (Championship) in eight years.
In all he has won Scudetto’s in 1995, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, and 2006, the latter was later stripped from the club following a scandal. In 1996 he helped Juventus win the European Champions League when they beat Ajax of Amsterdam on penalties after a 1-1 draw. In 1997-1998 he scored 21 goals and finished top scorer in the Champions League with 10. One of those goals was a spectacular free kick against French side AS Monaco in the semi-final.
The 1998-1999 season saw him suffer a serious knee injury whilst playing against Udinese in October. It ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Juventus clearly missed him finishing in a relatively low 6th position.
In his time at the club he has partnered such strike legends as Gianluca Vialli, Zinedine Zidane, Filippo Inzagahi, Fabrizio Ravenelli, David Trezeguet, and Pavel Nedved.
Del Piero is the leading Juventus goal scorer of all time with a career total approaching 250. He has also made the most appearances for the club and is surely setting his sights on passing the 600 mark before retiring. His career for his country has been equally successful and he was part of the team that won the 2006 World Cup, when Italy beat France.
In addition Del Piero has further winners medals including 1 Coppa Italia, 4 Supercoppa Italiana, 1 UEFA Supercup, 1 UEFA Intertoto Cup, and 1 Intercontinental Cup. In 1998 he was named Italian footballer of the year.
His loyalty to Juventus was confirmed in 2006 when following an allegation of match fixing Juventus was stripped of its title and relegated to Serie B. Despite many of their ‘star’ players leaving, Del Piero stayed and helped them win the Serie B title. They had to start the season with a minus-nine point penalty. However promotion was clinched with three games remaining after a 5-1 away win at Arezzo.
In recognition of the example he sets to young footballers he has won three awards for gentlemanly conduct in Italy. His style is best described as a creative, support striker. His number of assists are countless and his free kick and penalty taking extraordinarily effective. In April 2008 he became the all time highest capped player in the history of Juventus and the 4th highest goal scorer ever for the national team.
Alessandro Del Piero has just turned 34 years of age. He continues to notch up milestones, awards, honours, records, and achievements. When he scored his goal at Chievo last weekend he received a standing ovation from both sets of supporters, such is the esteem in which he is held. Clearly he still has a lot to offer.
As role models go, young footballers are well advised to look no further than the legend that is Alessandro Del Piero. One man, one club, one hell of a player.Powered by Sidelines