As age slowly deteriorates a man, a footballer realizes he has only a limited time on the playing pitch.
For the striker known as Alessandro Del Piero, the day he decides to hang up the boots will be a day the game loses one of its greats.
A legend who has cemented his mark on football, Del Piero is the personification of consistency, leadership and most importantly, loyalty. A one-club man his entire career, the Juventus poacher has achieved just about everything there is, and will have no regrets when he decides to call it a day.
Recently Juventus stated that they will not be bringing back the World Cup winner, as they will not offer him a further contract. Fans of the Old Lady are hoping they get one last great season from their talismanic captain, and will send him out knowing he will be remembered in Juve folklore forever.
And since the decision to not bring back Alex has been set, many rumors are circulating regarding his future. One such rumor that has been picking up steam for a while is the prospect of Del Piero switching to the MLS.
Many will see this initially as a great move for American footy, and would welcome the striker with open arms.
But for Del Piero, moving across the sea and playing in the MLS would be ill-advised. There are too many factors that aren’t conducive to such a move for the 36-year-old, especially at this point in his career.
Many teams could use a striker of his quality without a doubt, since he is still capable of playing elite football. Yet is it worth it for the Juve man?
Let’s examine the reasons why Del Piero should not move to the MLS, and spotlight a few teams who could benefit from signing him if he decides to come over.
The biggest and most obvious reason for Del Piero to shun the MLS is the lack of quality.
While the league has definitely strengthened over the years, it is still a major drop-off in comparison to other parts of the world.
Del Piero is someone that is used to playing at the highest level of football, and has been doing so for almost 20 years. He is accustomed to pairing alongside the world’s greatest, and as he gets older he will need the same support in order to achieve success, something the MLS cannot do right now.
If there were more world-class players spread throughout the teams, perhaps this move would be easier. The MLS does not have enough to help the striker, though, and he could find himself frustrated by the lack of talent on his side.
If Del Piero were to come to MLS, there would be massive pressure placed on the Italian’s shoulders to enhance the league’s global image.
As an ambassador for the game and well known throughout the world, his role for the MLS would be to spread popularity and catch the attention of the outsiders who reject the league.
While many players have been asked to do such a monumental task—i.e. the David Beckham Experiment—nobody has come close to fulfilling such expectations. If the rest of the world has excellent football playing in their own backyards, then why would they take notice of a second-tier league like the MLS?
Even if he were able to sway naysayers, the ideal goal for any team that signs him would be to sell his shirts, which is not ethical. Del Piero should not have to deal with such unrealistic beliefs considering the career the man has had.
Playing in the Stadio delle Alpi is a little different than playing at Toyota Park.
After playing in front of 69,000 fans in Turin, I can only image the feelings Del Piero would have stepping out to 10,000 fans in San Jose.
The average attendance for MLS games in 2010 was 16,675 per game, a respectable number that continues to grow every year. But the growth is nothing dramatic, and while a lot of fan bases are passionate about their squads, it does not compare to the NFL, MLB and even NBA.
I imagine Del Piero could fill some seats if he were to ply his trade here in America, but how many? The idea of getting limited support on game day just doesn’t seem appealing, and for that Del Piero should not join the league.
It would take a long time to catalog individually all the achievements and accolades Del Piero has amassed in his colorful career.
That being said, coming to the MLS is a risky move that possibly could tarnish his legacy.
Perhaps Del Piero does a seal a move and gets a two- or three-year contract. What if those years are tainted by poor play and failed expectations, and he does not live up to the hype he most certainly will bring with him?
Does Alex want to risk ending his career on a low instead of bowing out on a high? A move to the MLS seems precarious for a man who is considered one of the greatest ever to don a Juventus kit.
I realize the chances of Del Piero coming to States are pretty high, and he certainly could enjoy some final success if things pan out for him over here.
He still has the energy and exuberance to play competitively, and would hands-down be the best player on any squad that signed him. In fact, he could transition quite easily with almost anybody, and every coach would drool knowing they are fielding the highest-scoring Bianconeri player of all time.
And while I think the move should not happen at this point, plenty of teams have plenty of reasons to sign the striker.
Here are four squads that could use the Juventus forward.
Frank Klopas’ side struggled to find the back of the net all season, and saw many defeats and draws due to their lack of scoring.
What better person to bring in that a natural goal scorer?
Del Piero can fill that void; finding a suitable forward is an issue that has needed attention since Chris Rolfe left for Europe. As a proven striker, Alex is the perfect fit for a team so desperate for goals.
I think the Fire would be a great spot for the ageless wonder because they have a great stadium, a desire for his services and awesome fan support.
Never underestimate the power of money.
For the New York Red Bulls, signing big names is nothing new and they grossly underachieved this past season with an inflated roster.
Perhaps a little spring cleaning is in store, and after throwing away a few contracts (I am looking at you Rafa Marquez) to clear up some money, the Red Bulls could sign Del Piero. They have the tools to build the club around the striker and would essentially be “all in” for their quest for the MLS Cup.
He could adapt perfectly to the game playing alongside Thierry Henry and could also help in nurturing a top American prodigy in Juan Agudelo.
Vancouver’s maiden season in the MLS proved to be a mess right from the start.
As the worst team in the MLS, the Whitecaps are desperate to develop in their sophomore season and signing Del Piero would be a dream come true.
Besides Eric Hassli, Vancouver’s designated players are nothing special. The team would see an instant jump in quality with the acquisition of Del Piero. The Frenchman and the Italian could produce a lethal combination for the Whitecaps, and goals would certainly flow from the two.
If the Whitecaps expect to compete in this league, they will need to upgrade quickly and the Juve man is an ideal improvement.
After their failed attempts to play Chad Ochocinco, Sporting KC should try taking off-season signings a bit more seriously.
But if it all was just a PR stunt to get the country to take notice, why not get the coverage at the expense of someone world-class like Del Piero?
Alex is a respected footballer who could do a lot more than Ochocinco, not only on the field but also in the press and with marketing. He is a veteran of the game who would do wonders for the Sporting KC name.
With a new stadium and high hopes, why not have Del Piero leading KC’s charge?
Ben Olsen fielded one of the youngest teams in the MLS, and they were punished often for their immature displays.
But the future is bright in DC, and Olsen should be excited with the potential on his roster.
Del Piero would be the ultimate locker room presence for a young DC team, and would demand the respect of the organization right away. His leadership is well documented and his professionalism could highly influence the younger generation of footballers.
As DC looks towards the future, they will need a classy leader to set the tone, and you cant get much classier than Alex Del Piero.