Why the A-League needs Del Piero
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Juventus' Alessandro Del Piero. AP Photo/Massimo Pinca
No disrespect to FC Sion but Alessandro Del Piero has a decision to make which could help change the face of football in this country.
For those of you who don’t know – possibly because you’ve been living under a rock with a malfunctioning wi-fi connection – Sydney FC have launched an audacious bid to sign one of Italian football’s greatest ever players.
Let’s start with the facts. He’s Juventus’ all-time leading goal scorer. He won 91 caps (and a World Cup) with Italy.
He was recently voted one the 100 greatest living footballers, for goodness sake! (Although the notable omission of Paul Wade suggests the voting system may have been somewhat flawed).
And Sydney FC have pitched the chance for Del Piero to create the kind of legacy Dwight Yorke tried but ultimately failed to leave.
One which says Australia is a legitimate destination for world-class players to showcase their skills, now and into the future.
Yet a quick glance at some of the Italian and Swiss press on the matter suggests such an opportunity doesn’t necessarily hold much cachet in Europe.
La Gazzetta dello Sport expressed Sydney FC’s late interest only as an afterthought, while Le Nouvelliste in Switzerland seemed to indicate Del Piero’s move to Sion is all but a done deal.
Meanwhile other outlets are hinting that Del Piero could yet end up at Celtic or Tottenham Hotspur, with ‘Alex’ himself said to be an enthusiastic fan of the Hoops.
But surely the lure of playing Champions League football for Celtic is negated by the fact the Scottish Premier League is now a one-horse race, whilst London is hardly likely to offer Del Piero anything he hasn’t seen before.
And while Sion – presided over by one of the most madcap owners in European football, it must be said – may have lured ex-Milan star Gennaro Gattuso to the fold, the hope is that Del Piero appreciates the opportunity to be part of something bigger.
He can be more than just another European veteran winding down his twilight years in a European league and instead become the spark which re-ignites mainstream interest in the A-League.
And given that Del Piero, who is well known for his philanthropy and broad outlook on life, has expressed his approval of David Beckham doing precisely that in the United States, there seems a genuine chance a living Italian legend could soon call Sydney home.
I’m not sure it will ensure sold-out signs at every Sydney FC home game, as some analysts have suggested.
There will always be cynics who deride the quality of the A-League (usually without ever bothering to actually attend matches) and Del Piero is obviously more likely to appeal to the local Italian community than to fans from other European backgrounds.
But there is no doubt that signing a player of his calibre would represent the biggest coup an A-League club has pulled off to date.
Saying as much is to get ahead of ourselves though and it would be a crushing blow for Australian football if Del Piero turns down a proposed move to the harbour city.
It would be a shame if he does, because the A-League could really use a timely boost as the clock ticks down towards kick-off in the 2012-13 campaign.
Here’s hoping Sydney FC’s courting of Del Piero doesn’t leave fans with a case of ‘so near, yet so far’ deflation.
Del Piero is the right man for the Sky Blues, now they just need to make clear they’re the right club for him.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman