Alessandro Del Piero: A star reborn

By Marco Selci

With nicknames like ‘the old master’ and ‘the godfather’ it’s no surprise that Alessandro Del Piero is widely considered to be one of the best footballers of his generation – and possibly even today.

But since the start of Marcello Lippi’s second reign as coach of the national team, he hasn’t received a single call-up for any Italy games.

I think it’s time that Lippi changes his mind and brings him back into the international scene.

What’s so special about Del Piero?

If there’s one thing that younger players are missing compared to Del Piero, it’s experience. Just by glancing at his international career we see he’s Italy’s fourth all-time leading goal-scorer with a whopping 91 appearances.

But there’s more to the 34-year-old than just experience. A lack of height is considered an issue for footballers these days, yet it seems to work in Del Piero’s favour. His short stature gives him a low centre of gravity helping him to maintain a strong and agile balance, allowing him to move and react quicker than taller players.

A couple of prime examples of footballers who also benefit from being shorter are Carlos Tevez and the young rising Juventus star, Sebastian Giovinco.

Del Piero is regarded as a formidable creative attacking force with the ability to score classy goals with ease. He’s renowned for his free-kick and penalty taking ability that often leaves keepers rooted to the spot and opponents stunned.

The Juventus captain has also become famous for a special shooting tactic of his own when aiming for: ‘The Del Piero Zone’. This is when he flies down the left flank of the box and then hits a sweet curler into the far top-corner of the goal, out of the goalkeeper’s reach.

During Fabio Capello’s time at Juventus, in the 05-06 season it was believed by many that Del Piero had returned to his best. And Capello frequently used Del Piero from the bench to make a ‘critical impact’ on games. But the player made it clear that he was hungry for more than just substitute appearances:

“I want people to know me for more than being able to come off the bench to change a game.”

Alessandro Del Piero on being a substitute

Since Claudio Ranieri took charge of Juve in 2007, Del Piero has more than proved his worth. Most notably perhaps, this season in the Champions League. He scored in a 1-0 win over Zenit and also struck in both consecutive games against Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Even in Juventus’ recent 4-0 thrashing of Reggina, Del Piero showed his quality by being involved in the smooth, flowing teamwork that led to the win. Highlights of that game can be seen here.

So why hasn’t Lippi given Del Piero a call-up?

One possible reason could be the ‘age factor’. The fact that Del Piero is 34-years-old has led to him being described as having ‘creaky legs’ by some critics; his time has passed.

It could also perhaps be due to the fact that Lippi is trying to give the youngsters of Italy a chance to gain experience, thus dropping the older players. But having said this, we haven’t seen the likes of famous upcoming stars such as Mario Balotelli and Sebastian Giovinco yet. The only youngster that Lippi has called up is the American-born Italian footballer Giuseppe Rossi.

Could it be possible that Lippi is actually trying to ensure that future stars of Italy ‘don’t indulge themselves with this honour and become big headed’?

Looking at Italy’s results since Euro 2008 it’s clear to see that World Champions haven’t been living up to expectations. Many said that Italy’s qualifying group would be a piece of a cake – but instead where double figures might have been expected – we’ve only seen wins by one-goal margins.

If Marcello Lippi truly wants to boost the morale and confidence of this Italian squad, (as well as bagging a few extra goals), I wholeheartedly believe that the presence of Del Piero, both on and off the pitch, would make a tremendous difference.

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