Del Piero knows a thing or two about staying until the job is done
Alessandro Del Piero. Photo: AP
Want to know the real reason Alessandro Del Piero is staying in Sydney for another season? It’s pretty simple, actually. The job he started is only half done.
He came to that conclusion a while ago – but it wasn’t him that needed convincing. The club was the one initially reluctant to rush in.
Barely two months after arriving in Australia, the Del Piero camp made overtures to the club about extending his contract. It’s been a drawn-out process ever since. The honest truth is while it has always been closer to when than if, there’s been more than a few bumps.
Goal-scoring form ... Alessandro Del Piero. Photo: Ryan Osland
A clause inserted into the original deal meant the triggering of a contract extension on the same terms and conditions had to be done by February 28 – hence the rush this week to get the deal done.
That’s why Del Piero’s brother and agent, Stefano, appeared in town last week and was present at the win over Adelaide on Saturday.
This past week has been relatively smooth and to the script – both parties were comfortable he would be here again. Del Piero had already told his family they would be staying on. Only tweaks were required.
However, it hasn’t always quite been so easy. When Del Piero wanted to make it happen, Sydney FC were cautious. When the club eventually warmed, Del Piero wondered what the hold-up was and subsequently wanted a deep breath himself.
‘‘Italians take their time over big decisions,’’ commented one observer. ‘‘It will happen. There’s no rush.’’ Except, of course, the looming deadline next Wednesday.
Perhaps burned by the experience of previous marquees – Juninho, John Aloisi and Nicky Carle all had their first year at Moore Park blighted by injury – Sydney’s board decided to play the waiting game after Del Piero pulled his hamstring in the 2-1 win over Perth, a game he struggled in, despite scoring the equalising penalty.
Was his body capable of standing up to the rigours of the A-League? He missed the next week against Central Coast, a 7-2 defeat. Losses followed against Melbourne Victory, before Ian Crook departed, and then came another string of defeats.
With the club playing poorly and coach-less, and with talks going nowhere, Del Piero grew agitated. His double against Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium was a thing of beauty but a window into his mindset was obvious after his second goal. He was fuming within and his celebration muted at best.
The board eventually realised what they had and grew more in favour of committing for a second season, despite Del Piero’s hamstring going again in a 0-0 draw against Melbourne Heart.
The Sky Blues spluttered between wins and losses early in Frank Farina’s reign, only for the turning point to come on a wet and miserable day at Allianz Stadium against the Heart. Sensing his team had a win for the taking against the lowly Victorians, Del Piero publicly lambasted Ali Abbas just before half-time for not pulling his weight.
It was so close to an all-out disaster, but Del Piero’s inch-perfect cross to find the smallest man on the field, Rhyan Grant, eventually won the game in the dying seconds. It’s been a dream run since.
The next week, Del Piero scored four, and assisted new signing Joel Griffiths for his debut club goal.
‘‘Does this [performance] change anything? No, but I’m still confident that Alessandro wants to be here next season and we want him here, too,’’ Pignata told Fairfax Media. ‘‘I want to make that very clear.’’
This week, that same deal was completed, with confirmation finally arriving at 11pm on Wednesday night from Stefano that terms had been agreed.
It’s a major triumph for not just for Sydney, but also the A-League and the code in this country. Del Piero has played a major role in moving football into the public consciousness and interest won’t wane next year. Instead, it will only get bigger.