Alessandro Del Piero sought a new challenge after ending his record-breaking 19-year soccer career with Italian champion Juventus. He found it in Australia.
Del Piero, a World Cup winner with Italy in 2006, will become the highest-profile player to compete in Australia’s A- League after signing a two-year contract in Turin yesterday to become Sydney FC’s so-called marquee player.
“I was lucky to win everything during my career and to end it in Italy winning once again with the team of my life: Juventus,” Del Piero, 37, said on his website. “I was looking for something new, something different, something that wouldn’t have things in common with my past.”
Sydney had faced competition from clubs in England, Switzerland and Scotland to sign Del Piero, who became a free agent in May after scoring 289 goals in a record 704 matches for Juventus. He also played 91 games for the Italian national team and his 27 goals put him in a tie for fourth place on the country’s all-time goalscorers’ list.
Sydney has been a pioneer in bringing high-profile players to the A-League, which replaced the National Soccer League as Australia’s flagship competition seven years ago.
The club, which won the A-League championship in 2006 and 2010, made former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke its first marquee signing in 2005 and also brought Brazilian World Cup winner Juninho to Australia in 2007.
For the 2012-13 season, A-League rules allow clubs to sign an international player outside the team salary cap of $A2.48 million ($2.5 million). Del Piero will get about $2 million a season, making him the highest-paid player in Australia’s four football codes, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
“Alessandro Del Piero is a global icon of the game and we are honored he has chosen Sydney FC, ahead of many other options, as the club where he will begin the next chapter of his illustrious football career,” club chairman Scott Barlow said.
Sydney will be Del Piero’s third senior club. He began his professional career at Padova, playing 14 games before being signed by Juventus in 1993.
During nearly two decades with Juve, Del Piero won six Italian Serie A championships, one Champions League title and the Intercontinental Cup. In 2004, he was named in the FIFA 100, a list of the 125 greatest living soccer players selected by Pele as a part of the governing body’s centenary celebrations.
“This is the biggest signing that Australian football will ever see,” former Australia and AC Milan goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac, Sydney FC’s goalkeeping coach, said in an interview with Fox Sports News. “This is exactly like David Beckham going to America. Alessandro Del Piero is our David Beckham.”
Football Federation Australia, which runs soccer in a country where it competes with rugby union, rugby league and Australian rules football for fans and corporate support, said Del Piero’s presence will help grow the A-League. The competition’s eighth season begins Oct. 5.
“All clubs will benefit when Alessandro comes to town,” FFA Chief Executive Officer Ben Buckley said today in a statement. “His stature in international football is well known, but it’s his desire to put back into the game and create a legacy in Australia that’s so impressive.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Baynes in Sydney at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at email@example.com