Who is your favorite soccer/football player?
December 11, 2006 11:29pm CST
My favorite is Alessandro del Piero. When Alessandro Del Piero joined Juventus from Padova, most football observers in Italy had heard of his precocious talent. His first season with the Turin giants saw him make his Serie A debut and lead the youth team to victory in the national championship and the Viareggio Tournament. Del Piero’s footballing prowess is such that Marcello Lippi elected to build his Juventus team around the youngster, rather than an ageing, but still highly effective Roberto Baggio. The decision would prove to be an inspired one as the Bianconeri lifted trophy after trophy, both in Italy and abroad. The crowning moment for Del Piero came in Tokyo in 1996 when his wonderful goal against River Plate secured victory for Juventus in the Toyota Cup. Alex’s early years at Juventus were successful but he did not have it all his own way. A physically slight man, Del Piero had to work hard to build muscle strength and his speed off the mark, two vital ingredients for those wanting to succeed in the modern game. A combination of these new found attributes, outstanding technique and an eye for goal, soon earned him the nickname Pinturicchio from Gianni Agnelli, the owner of Juventus at the time. Comparisons with the renaissance painter were apt for a player whose abilities elevated the beautiful game to a new artistic plane. The Italian media even began calling the curling shot from the left-hand edge of the penalty area into the top right-hand corner of the net the ‘Del Piero goal’. A serious knee injury suffered in 1998 was a major setback for Del Piero and marked a turning point in his career. When he returned to the field of play nine months later it was clear he had lost some of his sheen. A lack of form is arguably the best time to search for real winners and Del Piero would not disappoint. Comeback battle Juventus kept faith with the forward and continued to pick him in an attempt to coax the best from a player with little to prove in terms of ability. For his part, Del Piero showed a level of perseverance that few would have given him credit for. He adapted his game to suit his loss of speed and was rewarded with a return to form. Del Piero also began to make his presence felt as a leader and not only on the pitch. An omission from the starting line-up due to loss of form would inspire a tantrum in many star players. Not so Del Piero, who is prepared to bide his time on the bench waiting for his opportunity. The extraordinary thing is that despite starting an increasing number of games from the substitutes’ bench, Del Piero still finds the net at the same rate as before and has recently become Juventus’ all-time top goal-scorer. The fans adore him thanks to this exemplary attitude and his image as a one-club player. Del Piero’s professionalism was further demonstrated when he diplomatically handed the prestigious number ten Azzurri shirt to Francesco Totti, saying he preferred the number seven. The upcoming 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ represents a big chance for a player who many perceive to have underperformed for his country. His best moment with the national team remains his winning goal against Mexico in the group stage match at Korea/Japan 2002. Del Piero may not have the same box-to-box qualities as Totti, but if he continues to show the same willingness and humility, he may yet have a vital part to play at Germany 2006. His ability to play in a supporting role to the leading striker, or as a wide midfielder, means that he still has much to offer. This versatility in such an experienced footballer can make the difference between winning and losing.