Has Del Piero finally outstayed his welcome at Juventus?

There can be little argument that Alessandro Del Piero ranks amongst the true greats of Italian football. And at Juventus, he is nothing short of a legend. After all, he has scored more goals than any other player in the club’s history. A meticulous professional, Del Piero has always been a fierce and inspirational competitor, giving every ounce of his talent and desire, willingly, to the Bianconeri.
However, now that the club has finally agreed to repay the 36 year-old’s loyalty with a one year extension to his current contract, the question must be asked: in a season that must be defined by tangible success, does la Vecchia Signora really need Super Alex anymore?
In football, as in any sport, the hardest thing is always saying goodbye. So, to many, it will seem fair and dignified that Juventus have allowed their talismanic, outrageously talented No.10 a swansong season. After all, in the 2008/2009 season, Milan handed their own legend-in-residence Paolo Maldini a 30-game lap of honour. Many would point out, rightly, that Maldini was still one of the best central defenders in the league, and certainly an essential part of an injury hit rossoneri backline. Can the same still be said for Del Piero?
Undoubtedly, this is a strange season for Captain Alex. At 36, his agility and pace is notably on the wane, but he has delivered some excellent performances, perhaps in return for the faith shown in him by Coach Del Neri. How ironic that now, in his twilight, he finally finds a man willing to believe in him again. For years he has battled bosses who have written him off. Fabio Capello, Claudio Ranieri, Ciro Ferrara, Alberto Zaccheroni – all concluded, sometimes publicly, that Del Piero had nothing left. Predictably, each was made to swallow their words and came to depend on him, once again, in crucial games.
This campaign, with Vicenzo Iaquinta and Amauri wading through a thick swamp of bad form and Fabio Quagliarella as frustratingly inconsistent as ever, Del Piero is arguably still the team’s most consistently dangerous and effective attacker. Not only that, with Diego prematurely sold-off to Wolfsburg, creative responsibilities have fallen to the always inventive captain. In that respect, he has proven valuable, yet again.
A more courageous club would have backed either one of Sebastian Giovino or Diego to take over the mantle of Del Piero. Giovinco, in particular, was seen as the next great Italian playmaker to find his home at le Zebre. But a distinct reluctance to accept him, trust him and publically endorse him has finally driven him, resentfully, out of reach. Ultimately, Juventus cannot face up to replacing their idol.
In his youth, Del Piero was nicknamed il Pinturicchio by former President Gianni Agnelli. Then, the name referenced the elegance of renaissance artist Bernardino di Betto. Now, the association is more apt than ever, as di Betto was renowned as the most durable and gifted artist of his era. For years now Del Piero’s relationship with Juventus has been delicate and emotional. His eventual departure means closing a chapter in the club’s history, a chapter of glorious success told through cherished characters like Zinedine Zidane, Pavel Nedved and David Trezeguet. Now, Del Piero is the only protagonist left on the page, so who really has the right to deny him writing the last few words himself?

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