Aging Like a Fine Wine: Celebrating Alessandro Del Piero on His 35th Birthday
He is a club idol in every sense of the term. When you think of Juventus, you think of Del Piero sporting the captain's armband wherever Juve are playing. There is no other way to put it.
Even though he turns 35 on November 9, Del Piero is still playing at a high level at an age when players are either making retirement plans or have already hung up their boots. His records speak for themselves — Juve's all-time scorer with 262 goals and all-time appearance leader with 604.
It is hard to believe, considering all he has done throughout the years in a Juve jersey, that Il Capitano clinched his first Serie A scoring title two seasons ago, finding the back of the net 21 times and leading one of the highest producing attacks in Europe. And this was after Del Piero claimed Capocannoniere crown after scoring 21 goals during Juve's one-year hell in Serie B.
That's two consecutive scoring titles after the age of 30. Not too bad for a guy who has been written off so many times by the press in Italy.
Most players in the game today can only dream of having half of those totals over the span of their career. But Del Piero, whose lone appearance this season was for only 10 minutes against Bologna at the end of September, is only going to be adding on to it when he returns from injury after the international break.
Even with Juve currently sitting five points behind Inter in second place, many people feel like the Old Lady will begin to make her run when Del Piero comes back to the lineup. People have been waiting for the day that Del Piero gets to play with Brazilian playmaker Diego, who has referred to the Juve captain as a "genius."
Get ready because in two weeks, it's likely to happen.
Despite the age and a little loss of speed, Del Piero is still as gifted with pure skill as he has ever been. His vision is incredible. He can say he is one of the best secondary strikers in the world — not only scoring goals, but also setting them up.
He still has the uncanny knack to put the Old Lady on his back and lead them to victory. So many times last season Del Piero was the reason Juve won games — whether it was through a perfect free kick or setting up the game-winner.
But that is what a leader is. When his team needs him the most, he steps up and answers the call to battle. Del Piero is that player and even though he is at the age where players start to fade into the twilight.
The ride has not always been a smooth one and despite all of that, Del Piero has stood above all else and remained the symbol of Italy's greatest club. He has fought through injuries like he is right now. He has had to deal with the ups and downs of a career — whether it deals with his personal play or a crisis at the club.
Yet through all of that, Del Piero has dealt with whatever that has been thrown at him with the utmost of class. The way he carries himself is how a player should model himself as a youngster. You can't get any classier than the man they call Pinturicchio.
Along with Gianluigi Buffon, Mauro Camoranesi, David Trezeguet, and the now-retired Pavel Nedved, Del Piero formed the Old Guard that led Juve back from Serie B. His loyalty only adds to the legend.
How many other players, coming off a summer where they were part of a World Cup winning team, at just 31 years of age, would remain with their club in their darkest days after being demoted to their league's second division?
Someone once said that a true gentleman never leaves his lady behind.
Del Piero is just that. And then some.
He truly is, not only one of the best of his generation, but of all-time.
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