|By ADAM LUCIUS
It was just past 10pm Wednesday and Scott Barlow was about to go to bed when the phone rang.
The caller, one Alessandro Del Piero.
Profuse apologies for the late call, but did the Sydney FC chairman have a minute?
Barlow had all the time in the world.
This was the moment Del Piero would tell Sydney whether he was staying or going after one season in the A-League.
Barlow took a seat, composed himself, and then waited for the verdict.
Si, ADP told him, another year would be good.
Sorry again for the late call. See you in the morning.
And with that, the richest deal in Australian football history [AU$2m for another season] was sealed.
"It was a good phone call to get," Barlow told Sportal.
"We'd be talking for weeks and weeks and were happy with the way those talks were going but until you finally get that phone call..."
The alternative just was not worth contemplating.
Sydney had invested so much in Del Piero that to lose him after just one season would have been nothing short of catastrophic.
The Italian has been responsible for a steep rise in crowd figures, TV ratings and merchandise sales.
His 11 goals in 18 games is not only a club record, it has helped lift the Sky Blues from the bottom of the A-League to fifth with six regular-season matches remaining.
Clubs all around the world were desperate to sample some of the Del Piero magic - Brazil in particular.
But the 38-year-old, who spent his entire career at Juventus, is no mercenary.
"There is a touch of class in the way he goes about his business," Barlow said.
"On the pitch his class has been on display [and] off the pitch the impact Alessandro has had has been huge.
"He has raised the profile of Sydney FC [and also] the A-League as a whole.
"He has done that here in Australia, but also internationally.
"It's incredible to think every week there are football fans across Italy tuning in to watch Sydney FC play live.
"All the metrics are there; crowd numbers, viewing numbers, merchandise. The club has received a spike in all of those areas."
No wonder Barlow slept like a baby after taking the best phone call of his life.