Record-breaker Del Piero eyes 300
Juventus' ageless star Alessandro Del Piero scored his 250th goal for the club at the weekend, bagging a penalty in a 4-0 rout of a disappointing Reggina. It was the latest episode in a glittering career that began back in 1993 as a substitute for Fabrizio Ravanelli and has now seen the 34-year-old take third place in the all-time list of goalscorers at a single Italian club. Only Giuseppe Meazza, who hit 282 for Inter Milan, and Angelo Schiavio, with 253 goals for Bologna, have managed more goals for one team.
But it surely won't be long before Del Piero takes second place in that list and he may even claim top spot, if Juventus keep faith with him for long enough. His chances of reaching this landmark seemed slim at the beginning of last season as he lost his place in the Juve line-up to the pairing of David Trezeguet and Vincenzo Iaquinta.
However, Del Piero gradually forced his way back into the starting XI with some glittering displays, and his determination was rewarded as he finished the season as the Serie A top scorer and with a place in the Italy squad for UEFA EURO 2008. This season, it seems to have become a case of Del Piero plus one in the Juve forward line and despite his advancing years, the striker is dreaming of going on for longer.
, he said. "When will I get to 300? That depends on me and on Juve. I'm not thinking much about the record but about new objectives. Two years ago I was at 200 and maybe I didn't expect to add another 50 so quickly."
It is a long time since Del Piero scored his first goal in a Juve shirt, having been snapped up from Padova after just one goal in 14 Serie B games for them as a teenager. It was on his debut, and just one minute after entering the fray against Reggina on 19 September, 1993, that he smashed home his first successful strike for the club.
Ever since it has been onwards and upwards. Juve won their first title in eight seasons during his first campaign at the club and since then he has gone on to win five Serie A titles, although that would have been seven had the Old Lady of Turin not been stripped of their 2005 and 2006 crowns.
He also won the UEFA Champions League in 1996 and the Italian Cup the year before that, while with Italy he was part of the FIFA World Cup™-winning squad in Germany in 2006, and the team that lost to France in the EURO 2000 final.
He has played 590 club games during his career as well as appearing for Italy 91 times, and he shows no sign of letting up. His current club boss Claudio Ranieri is understandably impressed. "Del Piero is amazing. He is at the heart of the new Juve," said the former Chelsea and Valencia boss. "He's the flag bearer for the club's resurrection."
What has kept Del Piero so dear in the hearts of Juve fans is that when they were relegated in 2006 for match-fixing, and many stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Patrick Vieira and Fabio Cannavaro jumped ship, Del Piero stayed and battled through a season in Serie B, helping Juve to win the title and return to Serie A at the first attempt.
And while many have been expecting him to give up playing for Italy to prolong his club career, Del Piero remains as eager as ever to be a part of Marcelo Lippi's set up. "I think he deserves to be selected, but who knows him better than Lippi (an ex-Juventus coach) who was his mentor," added Ranieri.
"Lippi also has to consider young talents but when he believes the moment is right, he'll call him (Del Piero) up again."