Arsenal: It's A Shame, But Del Piero Is Too Old For An Emirates Swansong
When Alessandro Del Piero bid an emotional farewell to the Juventus fans on the final day of the season he did so reluctantly – engaging in a 15-minute lap of honour when the match against Atalanta, where he had scored, was still going on.
Juventus had already been crowned champions the previous week so the legendary number 10’s bow in front of his loyal supporters certainly livened up proceedings as he collected flowers and scarves which had landed at his exalted feet.
However, the realisation that football has no time for sentiment came seven days later when the captain was substituted with little ceremony in the Italian Cup Final after an hour or so of limited influence in a match where Napoli became the first team to defeat the champions all season.
At 37, Del Piero’s swansong with the Old Lady ended on the substitute’s bench where he had spent much of the season, more often than not making cameo entries. Of his 23 league appearances he only made four starts, scoring three goals in total.
He was used to greater effect in the Italian Cup where he started in each of the five ties in the run to the final but only against Bologna did he remain on the pitch for the whole game.
Del Piero may have been frustrated at how little he was used by coach Antonio Conte but he was decisive in scoring against Lazio and Inter in the league and Roma and AC Milan in the Cup.
Having played for Juve for 19 years it may have been difficult to say good-bye, but once club president Andrea Agnelli made it clear he had no intention of changing his mind in offering the veteran a new deal, speculation has been rife to what Il Pinturicchio – the nickname Andrea’s grandfather Gianni handed him - will do next.
Launching a line of sunglasses with one of the more eccentric members of the Agnelli clan, Lapo Elkann, may well have got him to thinking that it might be better playing on – and the MLS, China or Doha would seem ideal destinations to wind down such a glorious career.
However, a switch to the Premier League for anyone in their thirties would be tough enough but for a player who has played his whole career as a trequartista in a league where the build-up is much more measured and at times downright sedate compared to the robust and pacy approach in England, can only be seen as an act of extreme folly.
We only have to think back to Andriy Shevchenko and George Weah and their miscalculation in believing that they could impose their style in English football.
Never the most physically-imposing, Del Piero has long since lost his lightening pace over five metres and he has in fact spent most of his later years being much more effective when it came to drawing challenges and winning free-kicks in and around the final third of the pitch.
That is not to say that the sharp turns and quick flicks have been dulled but after spinning away from his marker once or twice there would be little left in the tank to take him into dangerous areas of the pitch.
Once again, we return to his willingness to play a secondary role and having gone down that route in his final year at Juventus it would be a shame to see it repeated in the full glare of the English game.
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