Legend of Calcio: Alessandro Del Piero
As Alessandro Del Piero celebrates his 41st birthday, Vito Doria looks back on the great career of the former Juventus and Italy star.
Alessandro Del Piero was born on November 9, 1974, in Conegliano, which is located about 30 kilometres from Treviso in northern Italy.
He made his professional debut for Padova in the 1991-92 Serie B season in a 1-0 loss away to Messina and got his first professional goal in the following season in a 5-0 win against Ternana.
His ability drew the attention of Juventus president Giampiero Boniperti, who bought the attacker for 5 billion lire (roughly €2.5m) in 1993.
The young support striker made his breakthrough in his second season with Juve under new coach Marcello Lippi. He scored eight goals in 29 Serie A matches as the Bianconeri went on to win the scudetto.
Juve patron Gianni Agnelli gave Del Piero the nickname ‘Pinturicchio’ after the artist for his performances that season. The Bianconeri won the Coppa Italia in that campaign too but lost the UEFA Cup to Parma.
Del Piero scored six goals en route to the 1996 Champions League Final against Dutch giants Ajax, which the Bianconeri won 4-2 on penalties. By this stage.
Del Piero became known for scoring the “gol alla Del Piero” (Del Piero-style goal), which involved taking a shot from outside of the penalty box and bending the ball into the net.
Arrigo Sacchi called Del Piero up for Euro 96 after giving him his Italy debut a year before but the Juventus striker only played one game at that tournament.
Cesare Maldini took Del Piero to the 1998 World Cup on the back of 32 goals in 47 matches for Juve in 1997-98, but the striker didn’t have a great impact at France 98 due to the presence of Roberto Baggio.
‘Pinturicchio’ suffered a knee injury in the 1998-99 season and that caused him to lose some of his pace.
After squandering several chances in Italy’s eventual loss to France in the Euro 2000 final, he was back in form for Juventus when Lippi came back for his second stint at the club, winning the 2001-02 Scudetto.
The 2002 World Cup brings back bad memories for Italian fans but before the controversial 2-1 defeat to co-hosts South Korea in the Round of 16, Del Piero scored the equaliser in the 1-1 draw against Mexico for the Azzurri to progress out of Group G.
After the disappointment with the Azzurri, Del Piero scored five goals for Juventus as the Bianconeri reached the 2003 Champions League Final, which they lost to rivals AC Milan on penalties.
Fabio Capello preferred Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the Italian when he took charge in 2004, but Del Piero was vital as a super-sub. Juventus’ involvement in the Calciopoli scandal in 2006 meant they were stripped of two Serie A titles and relegated to Serie B.
Despite the disappointment, Del Piero was involved in some key moments for Italy in that year’s World Cup triumph, scoring against Germany in the semi-final and converting one of the penalties in the Final shoot-out against France.
After winning the World Cup with the Azzurri, Del Piero scored 20 goals in Serie B to become the division’s leading goalscorer and bring Juve back into Serie A. He was also Serie A’s leading goalscorer with 21 goals in 2007-08, beating teammate David Trezeguet by a goal.
Del Piero’s last season with Juventus was in 2011-12, in which the Bianconeri won their first title under Antonio Conte.
‘Pinturrichio’ received a standing ovation when he came off the field in the 3-1 win against Atalanta and he did a lap of the Juventus Stadium, picking up scarves and jerseys from fans.
The Juventus legend played two seasons in Australia for Sydney FC and then he had a disappointing spell in India with the Delhi Dynamos in 2014 before announcing his retirement in October 2015.
Del Piero scored 27 goals in 91 internationals for Italy between 1995 and 2008.
With his beloved Juve, he played 705 games, scored 290 goals and was captain for 11 of his 19 seasons with the Turin giants.