The recent news that Alessandro Del Piero will not be receiving a new contract with Juventus has shocked and saddened his many supporters. When his illustrious career finally winds down, where will Del Piero stand in regards to the greatest of all time?
In season 1995/96 a precocious talent was starting to shine for ‘The Grand Old Lady’ of Italian football. Juventus had sold Roberto Baggio to AC Milan that summer and out of his shadow came Alessandro Del Piero, “Il Fenomeno Vero” which translates as “The Real Phenomenon”.
In my opinion, Alessandro Del Piero is one of the greatest football players of all time. Whenever having a discussion regarding the true greats of the game, often people scoff when I inevitably utter his name. I have never understood the reason for their ease at casting such a great talent and legend aside but I have always wondered why.
If we compare and contrast the players who are widely regarded as true bastions of the game, Del Piero matches up well, if not better than most. His statistics below will rival any player:
|Padova: Appearance: 14
5 Serie A titles
1 Serie B title
1 Coppa Italia
4 Italian Supercups
1 Uefa Champions League 1996
1 Uefa Super Cup
1 Intercontinental Cup 1996
1 Intertoto Cup
|Italy Under 21’s:Appearance: 11
2 Uefa Under 21 European Championships
1 Final of Uefa European Championships
1 Fifa World Cup 2006
He was also part of the Juventus teams that appeared in and lost the 1997, 1998 and 2003 Champions league finals to Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and AC Milan respectfully. Del Piero scored an audacious back-heel in the 1997 final against Dortmund which was, unbelievably, the second best goal of the game. (See Lars Ricken’s goal from the half way line)
As a player, Del Piero has won every top award going and was Capocanioniari in season 2007/08, even though he plays the “trequartista” position, which is what the Italians call someone who plays in between the midfield and attack.
People may point to the fact that the world cup is the stage where legends are made and the truly top players have all made a world cup their own. That may be the reason that Del Piero is often dismissed, because even though he won the world cup in 2006 it wasn’t HIS tournament.
The Roberto Baggio world cup of 1994 or the Maradonna world cup of 1986, are instances where one player took their team by the scruff of the neck and dragged them to the final. That isn’t to say those Italian and Argentinean teams where full of mugs, on the contrary, but Baggio and Maradonna where the catalysts for their country’s success.
There will always be a comparison between Del Piero and Baggio, since Del Piero replaced Baggio at Juventus and took his mantle (initially at least) in the national team. Comparing them is a fruitless exercise but lets do it anyway.
Other than a short stint at Padova, DelPiero has been a one man club his whole career, the embodiment of what it is to be a Juventus player. He’s broken almost ever record at the club (He’s the all time top goal scorer/Appearance holder for Juventus in Serie A and in Europe) and been part of the successes and failures of one of the world’s biggest football institutions for almost 19 years.
Baggio was a genius but was very much a football nomad. After he left his beloved Fiorentina he went on to play for a further 5 clubs, including both AC and Inter Milan. He won the world and European player of the year, which is something Del Piero didn’t manage but then again Baggio never won a World or European cup.
European competition is where Del Piero stands over Baggio and kinda gobs on him a little bit. Del Piero is in the top 8 all time European Cup/Champions League top goal scorers with 44 goals, that’s not including any other Uefa competitions. If you take into consideration that it’s all with one club, that’s had its share of ups and downs (a lot of downs in recent years), it’s even more impressive.
Baggio’s lack of any real European impact after he left Juventus (where he won a Uefa Cup) was due to his restricted chances at AC Milan and the fact that Inter Milan weren’t very good when he was there. (At AC Milan he compared being managed by Sacchi to being a Ferrari driven by a traffic warden) His other clubs, Bologna and Brescia, weren’t of any real European pedigree.
Their appearance and goal scoring record in Serie A is very similar and they scored the same amount of international goals, though Del Piero played 35 more times for Italy. Baggio became an icon on the International stage in a way that most players can only dream of but a lot of that was to do with a missed penalty as much as his fantastic performances at the 1990,1994 and1998 world cups…okay, okay maybe Baggio was better on the international stage, I’ll give him that.
Del Piero has won three awards in Italyfor gentlemanly conduct. (He’s the Don Draper of Italian football) He’s also won something called the Golden Foot award, which pertains to personality and playing ability. This award, frankly, sounds made up but it’s definetly not and it’s another thing Alessandro holds over the ‘Divine Ponytail’, so there.
I personally believe that both players fall into the world class category but Del Piero is very often unjustly overlooked and not seen in the same class as Baggio. When it comes to an all time list of great players, I don’t know if it’s about trophies, personality or popularity but whatever it is Del Piero has to be right up there with the best of them.
…..I also thought I should mention, Del Piero scored his penalty in his world cup final, sorry Bobby.
By Chris Gallagher.
Chris is a football writer for a number of websites, and can be found on Twitter under @SubSceneRecords.