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Arrivederci Alessandro: Juventus legend Del Piero departs after 19 glorious years

With an unbeaten 2011-12 season under their belts to lift the Scudetto in Antonio Conte’s first campaign in charge, ambitious plans to strengthen the playing squad this summer, a gleaming new stadium and the return of Champions League football next season, you cannot blame Juventus fans for having a smile on their faces. However, all true Bianconeri supporters will feel a sadness in their hearts due to the exit of a club legend, as Alessandro Del Piero departs the Turin giants after 19 years of unequivocal service, loyalty and scintillating performances.

At 37-years-old, the veteran attacker is now deemed surplus to requirements at the Old Lady, as a new world-class centre forward is top of the club’s transfer wish-list this summer. Del Piero leaves the Bianconeri with a slightly bitter taste in his mouth after being refused the one-year contract extension that he craved to end his career, and will now instead leave the club for one last swansong elsewhere.

Looking back over almost two decades of compelling performances for the Serie A side it is easy to see why Del Piero is in the Juventus fans’ hearts. The masterful attacker joined the club from Padova in 1993, getting a break in the first-team and being a constant name on the team-sheet since.

The ex-Italy international has been there through thick and thin, for six Scudetto triumphs, one Coppa Italia and four Supercopa Italiana glories and the 1995-96 Champions League. He also witnessed his beloved club’s relegation to Serie B after being found guilty of foul-play. In a footballing world where loyalty no longer is second nature and ambition and financial gain rule the roost, Del Piero is a shining light to all youngsters who have the potential to become professional footballers.

Whilst at the top of his game Del Piero will have had no shortage of suitors, and has openly admitted in the past that the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona made attempts to lure him away from Turin with extortionate transfer fees and wages, but this never entered the mind of one-club man Del Piero.

However, he will not now be a one-club man. The evergreen attacker has stated that his hunger and love for the game has not diminished and is eager to find a new challenge, one that he can commit himself to for the next year or two. Del Piero will hope to follow in the footsteps of Real Madrid legend Raul, who left the Santiago Bernabeu after 16 years to star at Schalke and bring joy and pride to the hearts of a group of football fans elsewhere.

Del Piero’s potential destinations grow by the day, as the forward is linked with clubs and nations all over the world. He has already stated that he will not join another Italian club, and as such has been linked with moves to England, Germany, Unites States, Mexico, China, the Middle East and even Argentina.

The stylish frontman will not be looking for one final payday, and instead will be eager to find a footballing project that he can get his teeth into and showcase his abilities. Although the years are starting to take their toll, Del Piero will still prove a difficult opponent wherever he ends up, and scored some important goals for Juve last term in cameo appearances.

At his best Del Piero was virtually unplayable, with a guile and poise on the ball that have tortured defenders all over Italy and throughout Europe for the guts of two decades. Del Piero holds the Bianconeri’s goalscoring record with 289 goals in 705 games for the Italian giants, whilst he also won 91 caps for his country, netting 27 times and winning the 2006 World Cup.

Juventus fans have lost a hero, an icon and a fine player, however, as Del Piero has admitted in an open letter to the clubs faithful upon his departure, he will always be one of them. Addio e buona fortuna Alessandro.

DEL PIERO’S OPEN LETTER TO THE JUVE FANS

“It ends here, my contract with Juventus expires today.

“It’s not news, but knowing it is ‘official’ still has an effect on me. It is not a sad moment for me, there are no regrets or nostalgia. Not anymore.

“That’s because I’ve had time to think back over everything that happened in my last Bianconeri season, going further back and reliving the greatest dream I could’ve dreamed.

“All the memories, the joys, the triumphs and – to be honest – a few recent moments of bitterness… Today all these images flash in front of my eyes and at a certain point blur into one marvellous embrace of my final game in Turin.

“That is the photograph that encapsulates everything, the instant I want to bring with me always, the one that since May 13 has been printed on my heart. It cannot be cancelled.

“A while ago, before going on vacation, I emptied out my locker at Vinovo and walking out of the training ground I stopped where for many months you waited for me hoping for a photo, an autograph or just a hello… under the snow, the ice, the rain, the burning sun. But this time I am the one saluting and thanking you, just as you did with me.

“The players pass by, but Juventus remains. My team-mates remain, who I wish the best and will always cheer them on.

“Above all what remains is the fans, you who are Juventus. That jersey that I loved and will always love, that I desired and respected, without breaks or discounts.

“I am happy that others after me can wear the shirt and above all the ‘10’ that has always had my name on it since they started printing names on the Bianconeri jerseys.

“I am happy for whoever will wear it next year and happy that somewhere – in Italy and all over the world – someone is dreaming of wearing it.

“I would be proud of someone wanting to follow my path, just as I dreamed of doing so with other champions, other examples, other legends.

“From tomorrow I will no longer be a Juventus player, but I will always be one of you. Now a new adventure begins and I am as fired up as I was 19 summers ago.

“Arrivederci. Thanks for everything.

“Alessandro.”

Published – FourFourTwo

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Is Alessandro Matri the man to fire Juventus back into the top four?

Juventus need a shot in the arm after a below-par 2010/11 campaign, and have vowed to spend big this summer to try and recapture former glories. Antonio Conte has inherited an inconsistent side which at times seems to lack self-belief; a side that does not have the fire-power to strike fear into the hearts of opposing defences like yester-year. Despite the continued presence of evergreen legend Alessandro Del Piero, the past exploits of frontmen such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Trezeguet have been replaced by inadequate quality, and the Turin side need a high calibre marksman to fire them back into the top four. Enter new signing Alessandro Matri.

The 26-year-old forward joined the Bianconeri on the last day of the January transfer window from Cagliari, and was a key reason the team managed to finish 7th – had he not contributed nine goals in the sixteen games he appeared in, Juve’s plight may have been much worse. With Fabio Quagliarella injured and Amauri out on loan at Parma, Matri struck up an understanding with fellow frontman Del Piero that promised to fire Juventus back into contention. It was no surprise when the club announced last week they had signed him on a permanent basis for a fee of €15.5 million.

Matri built his reputation at the Stadio Sant’Elia over three seasons and quickly became the Rossoblu’s main goal-threat. Having made his international debut and receiving praise from Italian legend Franco Baresi, who has publicly stated Matri is an important player in the future success of the Azzurri, the stage is set for the former Milan youth player to meet his potential. With a full pre-season with his new club and added vigour around the Stadio Olimpico, Matri, despite competition for places, should command a starting spot in the black and white side’s attack in 2011/12.

Although Del Piero may still have the ability to score goals for Juve, Matri offers a ruthless finishing ability and an eye for goal Juventus need if they are to get back into Scudetto contention. The goals Matri contributed in 2010/11 were at telling times, and the reserved frontman has netted in big games, such as in wins against Inter and Roma, and in his debut for the national side against Ukraine. Having scored 15% of the Old Lady’s goals in 2010/11, despite only playing for half a season, Matri has the consistency and predatory tendencies to find the back of the net on a regular basis for the Turin club, something that has been lacking and a key reason in their recent demise.

With big name forwards such as Sergio Aguero reportedly on Giuseppe Marotta’s summer wishlist, Matri may face further competition for a starting place next campaign, but many Bianconeri fans will be elated he will be playing for their side. Conte has an old fashioned Italian goalgetter in the mould of Ravenelli and Vialli to call upon in the club’s current lowly predicament.

Published – http://www.footballitaliano.co.uk/p6_66_6317_is-alessandro-matri-the-man-to-fire-juventus-back-into-the-top-four.html

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