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Alessandro Del Piero
It is curious for such a notoriously nice guy who never gets into trouble to became a polarising figure, but things have rarely been simple for the boy from Conegliano Veneto. Think back and you'll remember a 20-year-old starlet so impressive, so talented, so prodigious that he was able to push Roberto Baggio out of the Juventus side and grab his No 10 shirt.

The moment I decided Alessandro Del Piero was something truly special was shown live on Channel 4 in December 1994, Juve fighting their way back from 2-0 down to Fiorentina and winning 3-2 in the last minute with an audacious volley off the outside of his right boot. “That remains my favourite goal, I have to admit. I've scored many that I remember fondly, but that one was really special.” Just look at the fact he has a style of shot named after him. The goal 'alla Del Piero' sees him approach from the left flank and curl an impossibly slow and precise lob into the far top corner, where the goalkeeper simply cannot reach.

We have rarely seen that finish since the injury that almost wrecked his career. At the height of his powers, after scoring 32 goals in all competitions in 1997-98, he snapped both anterior and posterior knee ligaments on November 8, 1998. A nine-month lay-off was the least of his problems, as he has struggled for form ever since.

That lack of confidence proved disastrous, with crucial misses in the Euro 2000 Final and Fabio Capello threatening to end his career early. Some have still not forgiven him for that and it's a big reason - along with keeping Baggio out of the Azzurri side - why he has attracted such bitter recrimination. The World Cup victory was a cathartic moment and at last he could afford to demand he be played in position rather than thrown to the lions in a wide role that didn't suit his talents - even if that meant exclusion from the Nazionale.

Juventus never lost their faith in Pinturicchio and he was the first to stand by them after their Calciopoli demotion. “I will never wake up from this strange dream, because it is all true. In a few weeks I became world champion and played in Serie B with the Juventus No 10 shirt on my back.”

The captain led his troops back to the top flight, winning the Capocannoniere title with 20 goals. His place in history is assured as top all-time Juventus scorer on 219 goals, their most prolific marksman in European competition with 44 strikes, the Bianconeri's best free-kick specialist with 29 and currently the fourth top Serie A scorer still in activity on 136.

Words: Susy Campanale

<150 Home>

February 2008
Issue No 150
A bumper 116-page anniversary edition which will stir a few memories.
Click here for contents

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Pictures: Richiardi (Milan)
& Getty Images (UK)

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