The last 58 minutes of Alessandro Del Piero’s career at Juventus weren’t in the famous Bianconeri colors, but in pink. The club’s original colors which seems so out of place on Del Piero, one of the few ‘living legends’ in today’s football. A 37 year old player who spent pretty much his entire career, through the ups and down, with the same club.
It was emotional, it was respectful, it was everything people expected Del Piero’s last match and moment playing for Juve to be and more. He scored a goal, how could he not; only his third league goals of the season, his 208th league goal in his career, putting him at 290 goals for the club in all competitions.
A send off with a title is even better. Juventus became the first club to win the 20-team version of the Serie A without losing, finishing 4 points clear of AC Milan and an incredible conceding tally of 20. They only conceded 8(!!!) goals away from home. But that had nothing to do with Del Piero. Most of what Juventus achieved this season had nothing to do with Del Piero, who got shunned by the club’s owners earlier this season.
Is this truly his final appearance? It’s hard to imagine him playing for anyone else, but even Raul didn’t stay with Real Madrid forever. After sixteen years with Real Madrid he was set aside, leaving to play two very impressive seasons with Schalke. Now he’s off to make loads of money in Qatar, playing for Al Sadd.
Is that where Del Piero’s heading? I’m not so sure. Raul is only 34. Del Piero doesn’t seem to have as much left in his old knees. Not enough to go fatten his pension plan in some Gulf league. After winning back the title, it seemed the Juve players who went down after ‘winning’ the 2006 title and stayed with the sinking ship have their closure. Del Piero and Buffon.
What is there left win? He’s got 6, or 8, league titles. He might be part of a second Italian Cup and the second double he’s been involved with. He’s won the Champions League and has won the World Cup with Italy. In terms of new stuff to win – there simply aren’t any.
And how do you come back after such a standing ovation? When Del Piero was substituted by Simone Pepe 58 minutes in, the world came to a halt. Everything stopped for three minutes, and everyone on the pitch and in the stands; at home and in the bars; everyone were on their feet, applauding, saying goodbye. It really did feel like a painful farewell, when you don’t want to let go.
There aren’t that many symbols left, symbols who have played their entire career or almost all of it for the same club. Even fewer get to retire with the team they’ve won everything with. Totti will call it quits soon enough. Javier Zanetti has to run out of steam at some point. There are a few others across the continent who can’t keep it up forever.
Del Piero won some new recognition in the years after returning from Serie B. The World Cup win with Italy took off that Loser label foolishly tagged to his back. Del Piero won everything too soon, too young; people expected him to never stop. But he went through a renaissance in the league and the Champions League, scoring 41 goals in the first two seasons back from the lower league. He won back the love and appreciation of those who forgot what a great player; what a class act he was and is.
The future? Easy answer is too hard to tell. The harder guess would be to actually determine if we’ve seen him playing for Juventus for the last time; playing at all for the last time. Maybe it is over. He still has more to give. He showed it by scoring three goals in the final two months of the season, two of them crucial for pumping back life in the title run. Maybe he just doesn’t want to give anymore.