Is Del Piero Too Old For To Make An Impact for Sydney FC?
After a relatively quiet summer, the Del Piero transfer rumor mill exploded going into the final few days of the window. Swiss club Sion, Scottish powerhouse Celtic, and down on their luck Liverpool were all linked with Del Piero. In the end he chose Sydney FC, of the up and coming Australian A-League.
For the Australians, it’s akin to the Los Angeles Galaxy signing David Beckham back in 2006. While it may not be instantly make football the most popular sport in the country, it will really help the league raise its’ popularity amongst domestic fans who may prefer the European leagues. It’s also a boon to the league’s popularity worldwide, as many Juventini (and Italians in general) will make an effort to watch (if only on occasion) Del Piero play for Sydney.
Will those viewers end up disappointed by the possibility of Del Piero’s age and mileage reducing his impact?
I don’t think so, as Del Piero didn’t show any signs of a serious drop in ability last season. While he was perhaps a bit deficient in the stamina department, and he’s certainly not as speedy as he once was (though that’s been true ever since his terrible knee injury years ago), Del Piero still possess a world class amount of ability. The technique, the touch, the vision, and the killer instinct (for goals, not for people) are all still there.
It’s certainly true that the A-League is a very physical league, one where strength and speed may make up for a lack of technique for certain players. The MLS (a league following a similar path for growth) also fits that description, although both leagues have seen their style of play evolve over the past few years.
It’s also true that Serie A, where Del Piero put in a fine season last year, lends itself more to technically skilled players as opposed to merely very athletic ones. Despite the disparity between his old and new league, Del Piero has the class to continue to play at a high level.
Even if he cannot keep up physically with some of the tougher defenders in the A-League, he will still almost surely outclass them. You may be able to outmuscle Ale, but if he gets one chance from the Del Piero zone than you’re toast. And as he showed last year with Juve, he’s not afraid to use his touch to elevate the ball past a quicker defender. Similarly, his five star footwork will also be a big help to his efforts in the A-League.
Then there’s the shorter span of the A-League which runs for a 27 game regular season with a post season period composed of at most five matches. So on the whole Del Piero will be playing fewer games, meaning he can be all that much more effective.
One must also consider Del Piero’s playing style. As a second striker, he’ll probably play alongside players like Sydney FC’s attacking midfielder Nick Carle. Carle was Sydney’s second best scorer last season, with four goals to his name. Del Piero will be looking to play off of the 30 year old Australian, and any time opposing defenders shift their attention away from Ale, he will make them pay.
Another teammate, ex-Blackburn Rovers man Brett Emerton, provides another strong outlet for Del Piero to play off of. Emerton was previously in the contention for the biggest signing in A-League history, but now he’s playing with THE biggest signing in A-League history. The two of them together should add some serious fire to Sydney FC’s play.
Factor in the warmer climate (which is gentler on old bones) and there’s the setting for Del Piero to leave a serious mark on Australian football. This is not to say that he will come in and be the Michael Jordan of the A-League, but he can have an impact akin to the one Beckham has had, becoming a tenet of the team he signed with and helping to be an ambassador for his league all around the world.
Fans may finally get to see Del Piero suit up for his new side on September 22nd, when Sydney FC faces the Newcastle Jets in a pre-season friendly. Sydney CEO Tony Pignata has said he “can’t see why” Del Piero would not play during that match. Hopefully Ale can start off on the right foot and use that as a basis for his successful career in Australia. In bocca al luppo Ale!