Alessandro Del Piero's 20 Greatest Goals

Sam LoprestiFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2012

Alessandro Del Piero's 20 Greatest Goals

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    Alessandro Del Piero is one of the most legendary players in the history of the game. In his 21 years of professional soccer, he is the most-capped player and the top scorer in the history of Juventus, one of the world's most historic clubs.  

    Over those 21 years, he scored 288 times for Juve and 27 times for the Italian National Team (as well as once with Padova before joining Juve in 1993). That's a total of 316 goals for club and country.

    That's a lot of goals. And as you watch them, there are a bunch that will make your jaw drop.  

    Out of all the goals, is it possible to pick the best of them? That has been my mission over the past few days—finding the best goals of il fenomeno vero's illustrious career.

    I included most of the goals in this slideshow for no other reason than their sheer visual brilliance. And while several of them may look ordinary, they carried significance beyond their appearance.

20: Juventus v. Roma, Coppa Italia Quarterfinal, January 24, 2012

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    The first half of the 2011-12 Juventus season was fantastic. Juve led Serie A for the majority of the season before the winter break. But there was one small detail that was bugging some Juve fans.

    Alessandro Del Piero had yet to find the back of the net. Some fans became concerned that, in his last season in black and white, the club's most legendary player might not score in the palatial new Juventus Stadium.

    A lot had to do with his playing time—or lack thereof. Antonio Conte resisted, and continues to resist starting him, and when he does get playing time it's often for only 10 or 15 minutes. Needless to say, he wasn't really finding a rhythm. 

    The one place Del Piero has found consistent playing time is in the Coppa Italia. Del Piero has started all four games Juve has played in the Coppa, and it was in the quarterfinal against Roma that Del Piero opened his account for the 2011-12 campaign in his club's new home.

    Del Piero collects a redirected long-ball from inside Juve's box and attempts to play Marco Boriello through on goal. Rodrigo Taddei denies the through ball, but puts it right back to Del Piero, who curls it off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net.

    It was a sublime strike that showed the Juve faithful what their captain can still do when given the proper amount of playing time.

19. Milan v. Juventus, Serie A, October 30, 2010

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    You can find this goal starting at around the 3:08 mark of the video. This may not be a flashy goal, but its straightforward nature belies its importance.

    This goal, Juve's second in an eventual 2-1 victory over Milan, was Del Piero's 179th goal in Serie A, breaking the club record for Serie A goals set by club legend Giampiero Boniperti.

    Mohammed Sissoko received a long ball from the left side. He beat the rossoneri defense, but tripped as he went for the shot while one-on-one with keeper Christian Abbiati.

    Sissoko recovered and laid the ball back to Del Piero, who slammed it past Abbiati low and to the left.

18. Juventus v. Fiorentina, Coppa Italia Round of 32, 2nd Leg, January 10, 2006

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    Another record-setter. Del Piero had entered this Coppa Italia match level with Boniperti with 182 career goals for Juventus in all competitions, and needed just one to break the record. Break it he did, and in-style with a hat trick.

    The record-setter came when Del Piero received a pass in the box from Adrian Mutu, dribbled around a Viola defender, and slotted it between two defensive players and past Viola goalkeeper Sebastian Frey.

    An honorable mention on this countdown comes later in the video, when Del Piero took a free kick from just outside the penalty arc and placed it into the top-left corner of the net with absolutely no room to spare.

17. Juventus v. Verona, Serie A, December 15, 1996

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    The run-up to the goal in question begins around the 5:46 mark of the video. Juve had fallen behind by two first-half strikes from Verona striker Filippo Maniero, but had clawed their way back into the match through a Sergio Porrini goal just before the half. Del Piero then equalized from the spot before this magnificent finish eight minutes later.

    Del Piero received the pass on the left wing, dribbled to the corner of the box, faked a shot, then cut the ball hard inside and unleashed a curling strike that found the net on the far post.

    It was a magnificent display of skill both off the dribble and off the shot. The goal completed Juve's comeback in the five-goal thriller.

16: Juventus v. Steaua Bucuresti, Champions League Group Stage September 27 1995

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    This one is similar to Del Piero's goal against Verona the following year. It's higher on the list because of the impossible accuracy needed to beat both keeper and crossbar.

    After receiving a long ball that originated from well beyond the halfway line, Del Piero faced up his marker at the edge of the box, faked a shot, then cut inside and curled a shot towards the far post that ticked off the keeper's gloves and into the top corner.

    It was the second of three in a 3-0 victory at the old Stadio delle Alpi. Juve would go on to defeat Dutch side Ajax in the final to win the Champions League title.

15. Mexico v. Italy, World Cup Group Stage, June 13, 2002

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    Italy had its back against the wall in their final group game of the Korea/Japan World Cup in 2002. A shocking loss to Croatia had put their chances of victory in jeopardy.  

    While the Croats would lose to Ecuador—which put Italy through on goal difference—the games were being played simultaneously and the Italians had no way of knowing whether they would equalize, making their own situation dire. Down 1-0 to Mexico in the 85th minute, the only way they could guarantee advancing was to equalize themselves.

    Mexican goalkeeper Oscar Perez had just been booked for wasting time by Brazilian referee Carlos Simon, and did not look like he had fully checked back into the game when Vincenzo Montella half-volleyed a throw-in into the box, where Del Piero snuck behind the Mexican defense and sent a diving header past an unprepared Perez to level the score at 1-1.

    Italy would indeed advance, but would crash out of the tournament in controversial fashion when co-host South Korea scored a golden goal after Francesco Totti was sent off.

14. Bari v. Juventus, Serie A, February 18, 2001

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    Two things make this one great. First, a fantastic step-over to get clear of his defender, and second, the angle from which he took the shot, and the fact that he scored from a steep angle on the near post.

    Del Piero took the ball up the left wing, stepped over, then tapped the ball forward, creating space to shoot, but also a difficult angle from which to do so. Del Piero is undeterred and slotted the ball in past the near post.

    A marvelous strike that gave Juve a late breakthrough in a 1-0 win over Bari.

13: Dynamo Kiev v. Juventus, Champions League Quarterfinal 2nd Leg March 18 1998

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    The 1997-98 Champions League campaign was one of the highlights of Alessandro Del Piero's sparkling career. He won the Golden Boot in the competition with 10 goals, none better than this one in the second leg of the quarterfinal against Dynamo Kiev.

    Juve had already all-but-clinched an aggregate victory when they played long-ball from the back. The initial ball was directed by a young Zinedine Zidane into the path of Del Piero going down the left side, who took a half-volley on the second bounce with the top of his foot and put it into the far post.

    The goal extended the aggregate score to 5-2 and ensured that the bianconeri would move on to the semifinals. They would defeat Monaco 6-2 on aggregate to move on to the final, where they would fall to Real Madrid 1-0.

12: Borussia Dortmund v. Juventus Champions League Group Stage September 13 1995

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    In most sports, when you're a kid, you're taught that you are most effective moving forward. Whether hitting a baseball, shooting a free throw, carrying the ball or tackling in (American) football, and, indeed, kicking a soccer ball, you are always taught to be moving forwards, putting your weight and power through whatever it is you're trying to hit, kick or throw.

    That's what makes this goal so remarkable.

    Del Piero played in with a through ball close to the left sideline. He cut inside of his marker, who made a quick recovery and stayed in front of him. Del Piero created space to shoot by cutting the ball backwards, then flying one into the top corner, far post.

    What's remarkable is that his last five touches, including the final shot, came with his body moving away from the goal. He created all of the pace that a shot like that requires—not to mention the accuracy—without the aid of his full body weight.

11. Juventus v. Real Madrid, Champions League Group Stage, October 21, 2008

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    I don't know why the most readily-available soccer clips on Youtube tend to come with Arabic commentators. Maybe the copyright laws aren't as strict over there. One way or the other, this guy seems to have gone bonkers over this one, and rightfully so.

    Del Piero quickly played the pass from the back to fellow forward Amauri, who played it straight back into the space in front of him. Del Piero met the ball about 25 yards out and fired in a hammer shot that fooled Iker Casillas into thinking it was going wide, then knuckled back, leaving the keeper with nothing to do but watch as it flew into the back of the net.

    It was Juve's first season back in the Champions League after calciopoli, and they would go on to beat Real in the return leg of the group at the Bernabeu—the first time they had beaten Real in Madrid since 1962—and top their group, only to fall in the first knockout round 3-2 on aggregate to Chelsea.

10. Chievo Verona v. Juventus, Serie A, November 9, 2008

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    If there's one thing Del Piero knows, it's free kicks. He's scored some beautiful ones over his long career.  

    Few have been better than this one from 2008 against Chievo.

    Stefano Sorrentino is a good goalkeeper. He single-handedly preserved a draw for his team against Juve at the new Juventus Stadium last month. But, there is absolutely no stopping a shot like this. It started high, clearing the wall with plenty of room to spare, then dipped down a hair's breadth under the crossbar, inches from Sorrentino's outstretched hands.

    Juve would win this game 2-0 and go on to a 2nd-place finish in that season's Serie A.

9. Juventus v. Roma, Serie A, November 1, 2008

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    2008-09 was the last of Del Piero's truly great seasons, and the end of the success that Juve had seen post-calciopoli. It was the last time he scored double-digit goals in Serie A, and the next two seasons the bianconeri crashed to seventh-place finishes.

    This long-distance free kick was absolutely magnificent. From about 30 yards out, he fired a powerful shot that bent at the last possible minute, past the outstretched fingers of Doni and into the net.

    It was Del Piero's second goal of the season, and was the breakthrough of an eventual 2-0 win.

8. Inter v. Juventus, Serie A, February 12, 2006

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    The 2005-06 season ended in despair for Juve, who, despite winning the league, were stripped of the scudetto and relegated for their part in the calciopoli match-fixing scandal. While Juve's true culpability in that scandal is still a matter of debate, their play that season was superb, and in a big second-half fixture against Inter, Del Piero came up big.

    Taking a free kick from the center of the field, just outside the penalty arc, Del Piero's kick so fooled Julio Cesar that he barely moved, curling inside the near post in a wide swerve, the true scope of which you can see on the first replay shown on the video from an overhead angle.

    The 85th minute goal broke a 1-1 deadlock, and Juve would not lose again that season, winning the title before calciopoli broke and the consequences destroyed Juventus' status as one of the best clubs in the world.  

7. Juventus v. Lazio, Serie A, April 27, 2008

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    This has got to be the soccer equivalent of getting your "ankles broken" in a basketball game.

    Mohammad Sissoko dispossessed Stefan Radu at midfield. The ball was gathered by Cristiano Zanetti and played long to Del Piero. Del Piero took one touch and completely turned Cribari around, allowing him all the room he needed to slot the ball in to the far post past keeper Marco Ballotta, who was much too far off his line to be able to intervene.

    It was the third goal in what would become a 5-2 rout, but it would be the highest point Juve would see the rest of the season. They lost their next game and drew the next two to finish in third place.

6: Italy v. Germany, World Cup Semifinal, July 4, 2006

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    This was just pretty.

    Del Piero filled the role of supersub for Marcello Lippi in Germany in 2006, and he served that role to perfection in the semifinal, coming on in the 104th minute and keying some dangerous attacks in extra time. It was his corner that set up Fabio Grosso's dramatic 119th minute goal, but this strike to seal the deal and remain unbeaten against Germany in World Cup play was counterattacking soccer at its finest, as well as a fine example of the so-called "Del Piero Zone."

    A pair of headed clearances from Fabio Cannavaro drop the ball to the feet of Francesco Totti, who played the ball forward into space for Alberto Gilardino. Gilardino found himself one-on-one with Christoph Metzelder—who had no defensive support to the left.  He dribbled toward the middle of the field, then cut the ball in to the unguarded left flank—the Del Piero Zone—where Del Piero came streaking down the field to finish from about 10 yards out with his trademark chip to the top right corner.

    The goal sent Italy to the final, and also had a significant meaning for Del Piero personally.  Six years earlier in the final of Euro 2000, he had the exact same shot set up with less than 10 minutes remaining and Italy up 1-0,but scuffed it low and was denied by Fabian Barthez. France would equalize in the final minute of stoppage time and go on to win the game—and the European Championship—on a golden goal by David Trezeguet. This time, he made sure there was no mistake.

5. Torino v. Juventus, Serie A, November 17, 2002

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    The Derby delle Mole has not been contested since Torino's relegation following the 2008-09 season, but it is still one of the most-hotly contested derbies in Europe. Emotions can run high, and the games are usually fairly close. An exception was this game in 2002, when Juve took the lead on this sixth-minute wondergoal by Del Piero and proceeded to dominate the game, which ended in a 4-0 thrashing.

    Pavel Nedved lined up a free kick from the left corner of the box and sent it in. Del Piero overran the ball, but compensated with a left-footed backheel that left Torino's goalkeeper totally flummoxed.

    Nedved would score a goal of his own in the rout. Something about this game must have led to hard feelings, because when the two met again in April of 2003, four players (three from Torino, one from Juve) were sent off.

4. Juventus v. Rangers, UEFA Champions League Group Stage, October 10 1995

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    I had a hard time identifying this goal, but thanks to two of my readers who separately sent me comments or messages to help out.  Del Piero scored several sparklers in the group stage of the '95-'96 Champions League—there are three from that competition on this countdown.  This one was just ridiculous.  

    Del Piero set up for a free kick on the left wing and whipped the ball in. It looked as though he was going for the shot all along rather than looking for a teammate's head. One way or the other, the ball floated into the top corner, far post, as the keeper leaped in an attempt to deflect it away. It's one of the craziest angles I've ever seen on a free kick.  Del Piero's career up to that point had been brief, but with goals like this had already announced himself as a bright star in Europe.

3. Juventus v. Piacenza, Serie A, January 26, 2003

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    Every time I look at this goal, I'm reminded of that flying sidekick move that Liu Kang has in the original Mortal Kombat games. It's not exactly a backheel, but it's one pretty goal.

    Gianluca Zambrotta sent in a long ball from the left flank. It was slightly ahead of Del Piero, who leaped, reached, and tapped it toward the goal with the side of his foot. The flailing keeper got a piece of the shot, but only deflected it into the side of the goal.

    Pavel Nedved scored a second in the victory, and Juve went on to win the scudetto that year.

2. Juventus v. Borussia Dortmund, Champions League Final, May 28, 1997

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    This one just made my eyes bug out. To do this in any situation is pretty audacious. To do it when trailing by two goals in the Champions League final shows that you've got quite a bit of intestinal fortitude.

    Alen Boksic eluded defender (and former Juve man) Jurgen Kohler and crossed the ball to the middle. It's unclear whether the target of the ball was Del Piero or the trailing forward you see on the replay, who seemed to be directly in line with where the ball would have gone had Del Piero not reached behind him with his left foot and backheeled the ball past keeper Stefan Klos.

    The goal momentarily put Juve back into the match before Dortmund sub Lars Ricken scored a 20-yard chip seven minutes later, only 16 seconds after coming on as a sub and ensuring that Dortmund would avenge their UEFA Cup final loss to Juve four years earlier.

1. Juventus v. Fiorentina, Serie A, December 4, 1994

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    You have to wait until about two-thirds the length of the video (about the 1:28 mark) to get to this one, but it is certainly a beauty. Coming in Del Piero's second season in Turin, this 87th-minute strike won the game for Juve.

    A long ball into the box from near the halfway line was met in stride by Del Piero, who volleyed it with the outside of his foot into the top left corner, completing a comeback that saw Juve score three goals in the last 17 minutes of the match after trailing 2-0 at halftime. One of il fenomino vero's most sublime strikes, and one that stands out among all the other fantastic goals the Juve captain has scored over the last 19 years.