Juventus are the Manchester United of Italian football in some ways. They are known as the ‘old lady’ of Italian football, a well thought of, well established club; a club that is not only supported by residents of Turin but also many people from all over the peninsula pin their colours to Juventus, in the same way that Man Utd are known for garnering as many fans from places like Torquay and Scunthorpe as they are from within the city of Manchester itself. Like the red half of Manchester you either love Juve or hate them. There simply is no in between.
Some in Italy are even of the opinion that refs favour Juventus. Sound familiar? And if Man Utd have Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes representing that now scarce concept known as the loyal one club man (and, similarly, approaching the latter part of their 30’s) with loads upon loads of winners medals, appearances, plaudits and great goals behind them, Juventus have their very own man of similar stature in Alessandro Del Piero. Like Giggs (well until quite recently that is) and Scholes, Del Piero is seen as a gentleman of the game, a nice guy who matches his talent and professionalism with off the field clean living and barely any amount of anything even slightly resembling controversy. No dirty linen has ever been hung out to dry regarding our man Del Piero. Although he was obviously at the club during the scandal that hit them in 2006 he himself was not implicated. Instead he remained and played a season for them in Serie B, helping them bounce back immediately, scoring 21 in the proccess.
As a player I guess he is– again like the two Man Utd individuals that I have already compared him to– a creative and skilful, forward-looking midfielder who scores his fair share– with many spectacular at that. I’m sure that he is not tarnished with the dodgy tackling brush of which Paul Sholes seems forever destined to be tarnished.
This year Del Piero was used mainly as an impact sub for his title-winning Juventus side. And he certainly had an impact, coming on to score a few crucial goals as the season drew to a close. They pipped a more on paper better looking Milan side, but Juventus dug in, grinded away and remained unbeaten in the league. With the help of this old head they came through when it mattered, while Milan (with a few old heads themselves) messed up, loosing points at home to teams they should have got rid of comfortably. Del Piero has played more times for Juventus than anyone else, and stands 9th in the all-time Champions League scorers list. He is also good friends with a certain Noel Gallagher. Signed from Padova in 1993 at the age of 18, Del Piero would go on to make over 700 appearances for Juve, scoring 208 times. For Italy it was 27 goals in 91 apps.
A true modern-day legend of the game has played his last for Juventus, amid tears and much ceremony. Where he goes next will be nice for whoever it is who picks him up (he still has talent and usefulness undoubtedly) but his best days, his joyous, splendid and successful days are a thing becoming past.