The Italian Cup final is never a momentous occasion on the European football calendar. Alessandro Del Piero had his real goodbye against Atalanta a week earlier; A proper sending off – as a champion, in front of the Juventus fans, scoring a goal. The Coppa Italia Final was nothing if not stretching a good thing a bit too long.
Juventus’ undefeated streak in all competitions this season had to end at some point. Unfortunately, it ended in Del Piero’s final match for the team he’s played on for 19 years. He got the start, somewhat of a rarity under former teammate Antonio Conte, and failed to make any sort of impression except for helping create one dangerous chance in the first half.
It was a dull match altogether. Del Piero faded into the background, looking like the 37 year old player he ought to be – not strong enough or quick enough for this kind of match, while Conte didn’t help him by adding more players around him who shouldn’t have started. As we mentioned, Cup finals aren’t that big of a deal in Italy, or anywhere else, except for the still lingering FA Cup.
It wasn’t as pompous as his real farewell from Juventus fans. Del Piero just saw his number light up, and went off, clapping towards the Juve fans. He even got some boos and jeers from Napoli supporters, who weren’t in Rome to serve as a background to what might be Del Piero’s final match as a football player, not just for Juventus.
There are still these voices coming out from somewhere suggesting that it might not be over. Some talks about a pay-for-play contract so he can stay with the club and not burden it with his wages; Maybe spreading his title bonus (rumored to be €2 million) over a couple more seasons, to let him go out on his own terms and not leave us with the general feeling he got chucked out by a pragmatist owner.
But to be honest, Del Piero doesn’t belong as a prominent figure on a team that has high hopes for the Champions League next year. Not in any consistent role. Maybe as a super sub here and there to spark and bring back life to the troops with his presence and experience, but I’m not sure how many times that trick can actually work. It did well a couple of times this season, but not much more. There’s not much left in the old war-horse’s legs.
But maybe he believes he has more to give, a bit more at least. He probably does, at the right capacity for the right club. It’ll be weird watching him play for anyone but Juventus; In anything but the Bianconeri uniform. But everything changes, everyone moves on. Even legends you never thought would.