Del Piero still going strong at 800
Few names can be as central to the history of Juventus as that of Alessandro Del Piero, the elegant forward having struck more goals for the Turin giants than any other footballer down the years. A natural in his heyday as the next in line to the Juve throne of Roberto Baggio and, before him, Michel Platini. He remains an icon of the Italian game and an evergreen phenomenon still capable of rolling back the years – as he proved in Australia on Sunday by making his 800th professional appearance over nearly two decades in game, aged 37.
Like his former Roma rival Francesco Totti, Del Piero is quite simply a fuori classe, a player in a league of his own, capable of lighting up the dourest occasion with one breath-taking moment of magic. Although dubbed Pinturicchio by his former club president Giovanni Agnelli, who felt the emerging Del Piero’s standing relative to Roberto Baggio was comparable to that of the modest Renaissance painter and the great Raphael, the young striker would go on to be every bit as effective as the ‘Divine Ponytail’.
FIFA.com invites you to celebrate Del Piero's latest landmark by looking back at his stellar career so far, stopping off at ten key dates.
12 September 1993: Originally from Veneto, Del Piero's talents catch the eye of Franco Causio while he is in action for Serie B side Padova. Signing professional terms aged 20, he went on to make his debut for the club of his dreams in a 1-1 draw with Foggia, before notching his maiden goal against Reggina a week later. That proved the start of a 19-year love affair with La Vecchia Signora, for whom he contested 705 games overall, his 478 outings in Serie A yielding 188 goals and his 35 in the second tier bringing another 20. Along the way, he helped the club claim six Scudettos.
14 March 1995: He registers his first European goal in a 3-0 UEFA Cup triumph against Eintracht Frankfurt, two years before hitting the consolation effort in Juve's 3-1 UEFA Champions League final loss to Borussia Dortmund on 28 May 1997. Del Piero represented I Bianconeri in a total of four Champions League deciders, losing three but tasting victory in 1996 as his side emerged 4-2 winners on penalties at the end of a 1-1 draw with Ajax. In the same year, he also savoured success in the Intercontinental Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.
25 March 1995: Del Piero's unwavering rise earns him his first Italy cap in a 4-1 win against Estonia during the EURO '96 qualifying campaign. He had to wait until his seventh appearance to open his international account, finding the net against Lithuania on 15 November 1995, but ultimately he went on to match Roberto Baggio's tally of 27 goals during his 91 games for La Nazionale between 1995 and 2008.
8 November 1998: Disaster strikes in a Serie A meeting with Udinese as Del Piero picks up a serious knee injury that keeps him sidelined for the next nine months. Laid low for Italy's qualifiers on the road to EURO 2000, he nonetheless travelled to the final tournament in Belgium and the Netherlands. Although he was still not fully fit, he would eventually recover his form at the highest level.
10 January 2006: Del Piero eclipses Giampiero Boniperti as the most prolific scorer in Juve's history by rattling in his 183rd effort in all competitions. He eventually signed off with a staggering 289 strikes, topping the club's scoring charts in nine separate seasons and finishing as Serie A's premier marksman four times.
4 July 2006: Guiding the ball high into the far corner, Del Piero gives Italy a 2-0 lead against hosts Germany in their semi-final at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™. Five days later, he followed up by burying his penalty in the shoot-out with final opponents France, exacting his revenge on Fabien Barthez after the goalkeeper had twice denied him during the EURO 2000 showpiece.
6 April 2008: He celebrates his 552nd appearance for Juve, beating the record previously held by Gaetano Scirea. Del Piero eventually racked up 48,363 minutes for the Turin giants, enjoying a superb ratio of 0.41 goals per game and amassing 18 different titles.
10 September 2008: Taking the field against Georgia, Del Piero makes his 91st and final appearance for La Nazionale. During his international career, he plundered ten goals in 34 friendlies, eight in 19 EURO qualifiers and six in 14 qualifying jousts ahead of the 1998, 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups – not to mention one goal in 13 EURO finals games and two in a dozen FIFA World Cup finals outings. Those tallies brought him an average of 0.3 strikes per match in Italy's colours, with the undoubted highlight their triumph at Germany 2006.
13 May 2012: He marks his last game for I Bianconeri by finding the net in a 3-1 defeat of Atalanta, helping the club finish the 2011/12 season as unbeaten champions. Leaving the pitch after the win, he is treated to a ten-minute standing ovation by his adoring fans.
28 October 2012: Pinturicchio plunders his third goal in four matches for Sydney, playing a full part in a 2-1 success against Perth Glory. That quartet of games brings up his 800th outing as a professional, Del Piero having travelled to Australia with 705 Juve matches and 91 Italy appearances under his belt. Adding in his 14 games as a trainee with Padova, four in Juve's youth side and 11 for Italy's U-21 team, the veteran forward can pride himself on 829 encounters overall – and he is by no means finished yet.