Former Juventus star and Italy international Alessandro Del Piero has bid ciao to life in Australia’s top flight after announcing that he will not renew his contract with Sydney FC.
The A League elimination play-offs brought the curtain down on Del Piero’s time Down Under, with Sydney’s 2-1 defeat to Melbourne Victory the last match of his two-year stint with the club.
In a statement on the Italian’s website, he revealed his departure from the club, but reinforced just how fantastic a time he’s had with Sydney since signing back in 2012:
My adventure with Sydney FC is about to be concluded, and, even if it makes me rather sad, because I have had wonderful time here, I have communicated my decision to the club. I'm really grateful for the last two years and for the club's request for me to remain and with whom, I am happy to explore new opportunities to continue our relationship.
It hasn't been an easy choice, also because my life on and off the pitch has been fantastic, my family and I have really enjoyed these two wonderful years: Australia will remain in our hearts forever. [...]
I will remain a bit 'Australian', and will continue to be close to the footballmovement in this country and the Australian Football Federation, also as ambassador of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, that will take place right here next year.
The self-proclaimed Italian/Australian then showed the Aussie in him in his final message of farewell, signing off with, “See ya mates. With love, Ale.”
A former World Cup and Champions League winner, Del Piero is a legend is every sense of the word; and when he signed for the Sky Blues for $4 million two years ago, he immediately increased the appeal of the A League.
The Magician Alessandro Del Piero retires. An amazing player that has brought joy to Australian soccer fans! pic.twitter.com/pX3bsuhST1— Tom Griffiths (@GriffithsTom) April 28, 2014
Now that his two years with the club have ended, his work appears to be done, with the league gaining immense popularity since his arrival. Del Piero also said in his statement:
My greatest satisfaction is the rapid growth of the Australian football movement, with interest increasing incredibly for the public, television and sponsors, in this country, considered to be an undisputed role model in the world of sportive culture (both for athletes and spectators), the passion for this sport , that I love so much, is constantly growing.
During his time in the A League, Del Piero helped himself to 24 goals in 48 league appearance for Sydney, according to Soccerway.
However, it may not be a final farewell from the 39-year-old just yet, with the club in ongoing discussions to continue their relationship with him.
Del Piero hanging up his boots is a big loss for Sydney, and the club’s chairman, Scott Barlow, was quick to thank him for his services—per Reuters, via The Guardian:
Two years ago Sydney FC signed one of the greatest players to have ever worn a football shirt, Alessandro Del Piero. At the time, if you had said Del Piero would be playing in Australia, few people would have believed it possible. His signing was the biggest in Australian football history and it lifted Sydney FC and the A-League on to the world stage. On behalf of everyone at Sydney FC I would like to say thank you to Alessandro for the enormous contribution he has made to our club over the last two years. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have him at our club and we look forward to seeing him in the near future when he is next back in Sydney.
What’s next on the agenda for the Italian icon is still very much up in the air; but wherever his professional life takes him next, he can hold his head high knowing just how much he’s done for Australian soccer.
Maybe Del Piero will end up coaching the Sky Blues' front line in years to come—and they'd certainly be learning from the best—though that is still unclear. The fact remains, though, Sydney do need to fill the incredibly large boots of the talismanic striker if they're to make an impact in next season's A League.