Was Antonio Conte happy, or was he thinking to himself – why didn’t I use him earlier? It’s late March, with nine matches left in the Serie A title race, and Alessandro Del Piero just scored his first league goal this season. Kind of late for the greatest scorer in Juventus history, despite being 37. Maybe too late to catch up with AC Milan, four points ahead.
Del Piero, who’s already been told that he won’t be getting an extension and is free to leave this summer, has only started three times in the league this season. For a player who’s been with the club since 1993 and even more importantly, stayed during the Serie B season while almost everyone around bolted the sinking ship, he deserved more.
Strikers, more than any other position in the game, need continuity, stability. They’re judged by numbers more than any other position on the field, and Del Piero didn’t really get the chance from Antonio Conte to start and show he’s still got it. Even during Juve’s four consecutive draws debacle, which lost them the top spot, Del Piero got a total of 28 minutes in all four matches.
Juve aren’t out of it yet, especially getting a big boost from their 2-0 win over Inter, although beating Inter isn’t such a big deal these days. Sweeping the Derby d’Italia is nice, but AC Milan don’t look like they’re really slowing down. We’ll see how their double clash with Barcelona in the Champions League affects their finish, while Juve have no European duties to distract them.
If Conte doesn’t win the title this season, despite still not losing once in the league since becoming the Juventus head coach, his misuse or lack of use with the greatest player in the history of the club will surely be highlighted as one of the reasons to the faltering results. There were more problems than just not playing Del Piero, as it seemed the entire offensive unit wasn’t functioning, no matter the combination.
But Conte forgot about the biggest ace he had on the bench, his most experienced player, someone who played with him not too long ago. Juventus had one hell of a season, but it might have gone a bit better if Del Piero would have gotten more playing time. Maybe it’s not too late, despite everything.