Another deal, a new idol moment
Staying on ... Alessandro Del Piero against the backdrop of his adopted home city, where he will spend another year with the Sky Blues. Photo: Steven Siewert
ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO'S re-signing with Sydney FC for another season was never going to be a quaint affair. Nor was the club going to underplay the significance of the occasion.
After some desperate early morning scrambling – club officials only found out in the middle of the night – they nabbed level 22 of the Gateway building in Circular Quay to show off not what they've gained, but merely what they've kept.
The panorama behind took in all the postcard sights but the way Del Piero is being feted, expect a statue of Il Pinturicchio to be erected on Bennelong Point by the time he leaves.
A small grandstand could have been erected to fit in all the journalists, photographers, videographers, PR-types, hangers-on, staff, assistants, executives and vice-somethings who turned up. Even a few fans had the temerity to sneak in to see Del Piero, flanked by chairman Scott Barlow and chief executive Tony Pignata.
And why not – he's achieving the kind of "cut-through" the A-League has only ever dreamt about.
So, what's in it for the Italian?
"I took a lot of time to agree to another season. It was a big challenge for me and my family to come here, I changed everything in our life," Del Piero said in his painstakingly perfect navy suit. "That's why I needed to understand what is good and what is not. For sure it's good here, and the relationship with the club [is good]."
However, Del Piero has more than enough on his plate for the rest of this season. Having recovered from an awful start – the team was bottom of the table last month – the Sky Blues have snuck into the top six and are hoping to hold their place until the finals in April.
"Weeks ago we had to be concentrating to come out of a terrible situation with the team. Now we are in a good position but it's not enough," Del Piero said."We have six games remaining and we have to push our energy to make the play-offs. Everyone wants improvement next year, everyone wants to do better and better every week and that's what I feel when I talk with Scott and all the board and the boss. That's why I'm very happy to stay here and do another great and better year."
Bettering his own year, at least from a personal view, may prove difficult. He's bagged 11 goals in 18 games, already eclipsing the club record for the most goals in a season with up to two months still to play.
Barlow said the value of re-signing Del Piero was obvious – from a commercial point of view and for his presence in the dressing room.
"Clearly, all the metrics are there. Crowd numbers, viewing numbers, etc, and the club has received a spike in all of those areas," he said. "But even more importantly, I think it's the influence that Alessandro has around the club. The opportunity it provides to some of our younger players to train and play alongside Alessandro every day, we really value that side of it."
The 38-year said he was hardly tiring of the idol-like worship his presence has inspired in everyone from diehard Sydney followers to casual sports fans.
"I'm really proud and happy about that because, first of all, when people love you like this, it's very good," he said. "We hope to play in a stadium all the time with a much [bigger] crowds than before. We beat the record in the first [home] game but we have to work to make other records. We have to try to beat our best."
When asked if next season could be his last as a player – he would be turning 40 the season after – Del Piero said he was still taking his 21-year career "year by year".
But in an most enticing prospect, Del Piero said he would "probably" be joined in the A-League by some top Italian players next season. "For sure, in Italy, after I come here there's a lot of interest – more than before. Some friends of mine call me, maybe also Tony, to look [around] and to understand," he said.