No clouds for Sydney as Del Piero becomes Sky Blue
Del Piero has signed with Sydney FC (Image: AFP)
A remarkable moment for the A-League came late last week with Sydney FC announcing the signature of Italian great Alessandro Del Piero to a two-year deal.
Unarguably, this is the biggest signing in the A-League’s short history. As good as the signings of Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton were; this is on another level.
It began as an audacious project by Sydney FC CEO Tony Pignata and influential player agent Lou Sticca, and one I didn’t think would be possible.
The club was rumoured to have beaten Liverpool, Celtic, clubs in the Middle East and the US to the former Juventus man’s signature.
What the signing of Del Piero can do locally is get the portion of the football-loving public that never embraced the A-League (also known as Eurosnobs) to think twice about the quality of their own league.
It can also help give some international exposure to games: Sydney FC trended worldwide on Twitter the night he signed, and overseas media outlets jumped on the story the next day.
There was also talk of Sydney FC games being shown live into Italy via its Sky channel, something that only a signing like Del Piero could have done.
A case example in this is the exposure and benefits of the David Beckham deal with LA Galaxy, an area where the A-League can learn from the MLS. This can put the league on an international map where not many players could.
The day after (even though the press conference was at 10pm), the Daily Tele had Del Piero splashed on front and back pages, even teaming with the Italian theme and offering a cookbook with it.
One thing that struck me throughout his press conference and an interview with Fox Sports’ Daniel Garb is how committed he was to Sydney FC and how serious he was about the move. The deal is for two years with an option for a third, with $2 million a season.
He has made his respect for Australian football clear, remarking on our national team, and seems genuinely excited about his new world. What also endears me to the new Sydney No. 10 (apart from being a legend) is that his dealings with Sydney weren’t a drawn-out saga. It is a sign that he wants to be here and wants to have a lasting effect on the game.
The challenge for Sydney FC is to keep the gates ticking through once Del Piero retires from the club. There has to be a long-term strategy and engagement that keeps the bling, and the football to match it. The club won’t grow to the full potential it has if this signing isn’t capitalised upon.
What is positive is that a football person in Tony Pignata, now heads the club. In a short space of time, Pignata has made some positive calls already. Witness the move to allow free public transport to games with memberships, a great initiative to help get Sydneysiders through the gates.
Where Del Piero plays and what he can offer on the pitch will cause some conjecture for Ian Crook and a fickle, demanding Sydney supporter base. Del Piero played a part in a side that captured the Scudetto undefeated over a long, cold season. Playing in a warmer climate and a shorter season can only see him perform at his top standard. I can see him deployed next to or in behind new recruit Krunoslav Lovrek, but it all depends on the football Crook will demand.
Delivering a signing like this is a great step and a welcome boost ahead of a massive season. Now we just sit and wait…
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