Del Piero…34 years young
Few visiting players get standing ovations at the Bernabeu, but Il Capitano deserved it after two sublime strikes in Juve’s shock 2-0 win over Real Madrid on Wednesday which sent the in-form Turin club to the Champions League last 16.
Del Piero had already outshone that other great talisman Raul by scoring another beauty in Juve’s 2-1 home win over Real two weeks ago.
He is surely in the best form of his long and successful career, which kicked off when he played in Juve’s 1996 Champions League-winning side.
He is undoubtedly the most famous Italian still playing the game and yet he has only ever been a bit part player for Italy, playing as a substitute for most of their triumphant 2006 World Cup campaign and sneaking into the Euro 2008 squad after finishing top of the Serie A scoring charts last term.
Lippi has said he wants to look at other players during Italy’s 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, but where will he find better than Ale?
Wednesday’s glorious free kick past Iker Casillas followed another deadball special in last weekend’s 2-0 win over AS Roma.
With Roberto Carlos winding down at Fenerbahce (and never actually that accurate), Ronaldinho feeling his way at AC Milan and David Beckham flitting between clubs, Del Piero in my mind is the best free kick taker in the world. You always think he is going to score or force the keeper into a mighty fine save.
Many pundits have criticised Del Piero by saying he is now too slow, I have done it myself, but every time he roars back and silences the doubters.
Even Juve fans have been known to knock him, yet this was the man who stuck with the club in their darkest hour when they were demoted to Serie B in 2006 for a match-fixing scandal. He is also Juve’s record goalscorer and appearance holder.
He was not included in this year’s nominations for the Ballon D’Or or FIFA World Player, and surprisingly has never come close to winning either.
On Sunday Del Piero celebrates his 34th birthday and will play for Juve at struggling Chievo Verona.
The travelling Juve fans should give him a standing ovation of their own.
PHOTO: Juventus striker Alessandro Del Piero celebrates his second goal against Real Madrid during their Champions League match at the Bernabeu, Nov. 5, 2008. REUTERS/Andrea Comas