Alessandro Del Piero: Aging Like a Fine Tuscan Wine

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Alessandro Del Piero: Aging Like a Fine Tuscan Wine

In these days of huge transfer fees, with sentiments of loyalty to a club all but forgotten, Juventus forward Alessandro Del Piero has done nothing but stay true to the club he has been with since 1993.

Especially since Juve's return to Serie A last year, he has been nothing short of sensational for Italy's most historic club.

His records speak enough for themselves; Juve's all-time goal scorer with 247 and his 565 appearances, 377 of which have taken place in Serie A, are towards the top in the club's storied history.

He is also the fifth-most capped player in Italian history with 91, scoring 25 goals in the process.

He has led Juve to five Serie A titles, which would have been seven if not for the 2005 and 2006 titles taken away because of the Calciopoli scandal in the summer of 2006.

Del Piero also lead the Old Lady to Champions League and Intercontinental titles in 1996, a Coppa Italia, four Italian Super Cups, the European Super Cup,  and an Intertoto Cup. Furthermore, as Juventus won the Serie B title in 2007, Del Piero led Italy's second division in goals while earning Juve a promotion back into Serie A.

This is a profile that most players dream of.

Turning 34 Sunday, Del Piero has proven that, despite his age, he can still be not only one of the best goal scorers in Italy, but still one of the best in Europe.

"Would I like to be 20 again? Of course, then I could play for another 20 years and not the seven or eight ahead of me right now," Del Piero said after scoring the game-winner on his birthday in Juve's 2-0 against Chievo, his 158th Serie A goal. "Having said that, time does help you mature and I am very happy to be 34-years-old right now."

And especially this season, with so many expectations being put upon the club's shoulders, Del Piero has shown up when the club needed him the most.

With the club returning to the Champions League after a two-year absence, Il Capitano has come up huge on Europe's biggest stage, scoring in three of four games, including two sensational free kicks against Zenit and Real Madrid.

"Within the group there is a champion who emerges and that is Del Piero. Alex is the captain and the leader of this squad," Juve manager Claudio Ranieri stated after Sunday's win. "He took the team on his shoulders in a moment of great difficulty and is now being rewarded for that sacrifice with some great goals."

Yet despite his production last season, Del Piero was left out of Italy manager Roberto Donadoni's squad for much of the run-in to Euro 2008. However, just as he has done throughout his career, Del Perio proved the manager wrong, all but forcing his hand to select him because of his great form.

It is hard to believe: Considering all he has done throughout the years, Alex only clinched his first Serie A scoring title last season, finding the back of the net 21 times and leading one of the highest producing attacks in Europe.

Del Piero is one of the classiest players you will ever see on the field. It's hard to imagine that a player of his caliber has been with one club for over 15 years, but he has shown the loyalty to one club for an amount of time that few have.

Because of his efforts and class, most notably this summer against Manchester United at Old Trafford and last week against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the Champions League, he has received standing ovations from the home crowds, an obvious sign of what kind of player he still is.

Il Capitano has made it clear that he has plans to play as close to the age of 40 as possible. And heck, if he continues to play the way he is now for the next few years, it's hard to think that anybody would object to seeing play that long into the future.

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