Alessandro Del Piero's legendary Juventus career - spanning 19 years, a club record number of appearances and goals, seven Scudetti, a Champions League and many more trophies - is now on its final path.
After Juve announced earlier in the campaign that 2011-12 would be Del Piero's final season in Turin, the 37-year-old has at most just a dozen games left before he continues his career elsewhere - likely in Japan, China or the United States.
Tonight, Del Piero will earn a rare start this term in the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against AC Milan at Juventus Stadium, leading out the Bianconeri as they defend a 2-1 lead from San Siro.
With this evening's game representing possibly the last big match that Del Piero will start for Juve, Goal.com charts 10 golden moments from the Golden Boy's career with the Old Lady.
|1. THAT GOAL AGAINST FIORENTINA - 1994
Del Piero was already regarded in 1994 as a wonderkid, but this was the goal that announced to the world just what a special player 'Pinturicchio' really was. Juventus were trailing 2-0 at home to Gabriel Batistuta’s Fiorentina with just 17 minutes remaining. Gianluca Vialli then scored twice in quick succession before, with just three minutes left, Del Piero netted the most famous goal of his Juve career by latching onto a raking 50-yard long ball and volleying it first time into the top corner with the outside of his foot. This strike made Del Piero a household name, began the process that would see Roberto Baggio leave the club, and gave Juve the belief to go on and win their first Scudetto for nine years.
|2. BORUSSIA DORTMUND BRILLIANCE - 1995
Early in his career in particular, Del Piero was renowned for cutting in from the left and curling home wonder goals into the top far corner from outside the area. This kind of strike has become known as a Gol alla Del Piero. The most noteworthy arrived when he was a 21-year-old in the 1995-96 group stages of the Champions League during a 3-1 win at Borussia Dortmund. Westfalenstadion was a happy hunting ground for Del Boy, who also scored a famous World Cup semi-final goal for Italy on this ground against Germany in 2006.
|3. YOUNG DEL PIERO OUTDOES RAUL - 1996
Del Piero’s record against Real Madrid during his career has been truly magnificent, and the Blancos must be sick of the sight of the Italian attacker. In the 1995-96 Champions League quarter-final, Real Madrid won the first leg 1-0 thanks to an 18-year-old Raul goal. In the return in Turin, Del Piero was the star of the show as he inspired the Old Lady to a 2-0 victory. Alex levelled the aggregate scores on 16 minutes with a trademark free kick before Michele Padovano hit the decisive second. Juventus went on to win the Champions League that season as Alex became a key protagonist with six goals in 11 games.
|4. INTERCONTINENTAL CUP HERO - 1996
Back in the days when the Intercontinental Cup was actually a prestigious trophy between the best European side and the best South American team, Del Piero proved to be the match winner in the 1996 edition against a River Plate outfit featuring Ariel Ortega, Julio Cruz, Marcelo Salas and Enzo Francescoli. With just nine minutes remaining, the hitman swivelled on a sixpence to crash the ball into the roof of the net and make Juventus champions of the world for the first time in 11 years.
|5. BACKHEELS & FABULOUS FLICKS - 1997 & 2002
As well as his free kicks and edge-of-the-area far corner curlers, Del Piero has also become famous for his backheel and flicked goals. The most high-profile arrived in the 1997 Champions League final which Juve lost 3-1 to Dortmund, and the most memorable during the Turin derby of 2002 when Alex somehow acrobatically turned the ball in during a crushing 4-0 success. Throughout his career, Del Piero has scored outstanding goals.
|6. PRINCE OF MONACO - 1998
Del Piero’s best individual club season of his career was in 1998 when he hit 32 goals in 47 games in all competitions, and finished as the Champions League's top marksman. His seasonal highlight was in the competition's semi-final against Monaco when he scored four goals - a hat-trick in the first leg in Turin, which included the best free kick of his career past Fabien Barthez, and a stunning volley in the second leg in Monte Carlo as Juve won 6-4 on aggregate.
|7. HUMILIATING HIERRO - 2003
Seven years after first downing Real Madrid, Del Piero did it again – this time in the semi-final. The Galacticos, with Raul, Ronaldo, Luis Figo and former Juventino Zinedine Zidane in their line-up, led 2-1 from the first leg as they travelled to the Stadio Delle Alpi. In Turin, Del Piero created the opener for David Trezeguet before scoring a brilliant second as he turned Fernando Hierro in knots before firing home. Juve won 3-1 on the night but, minus star man Pavel Nedved, lost on penalties in the final to Milan at Manchester United’s Old Trafford.
|8. STAYING LOYAL AFTER CALCIOPOLI
The darkest moment in the history of Juventus arrived in the summer of 2006 when the club was relegated to Serie B following the Calciopoli crisis. Evidence has since proven that the Bianconeri should never have been singled out for punishment - six years on, Juve are still fighting for compensation and most supporters refuse to let bygones be bygones. Those who jumped ship in 2006 such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fabio Cannavaro and Patrick Vieira have never been forgiven, while those who opted to remain and start again on the long road back to the top are regarded as heroes. None more so than goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and, of course, inspirational symbol Del Piero.
|9. CAPOCANNONIERE - 2008
At the age of 33, Del Piero finally managed to lift the Capocannoniere crown by becoming top scorer in Serie A for the 2007-08 season. Del Piero fired home 21 goals, and in the process became only the second Italian ever – after Paolo Rossi – to win successive Capocannoniere titles in two different leagues, having done so in Serie B the year before. In 2008, ADP also became Juve’s new all-time appearance holder. He has since broken numerous club records, including the all-time Juventus scoring total.
|10. STANDING OVATION AT THE BERNABEU - 2008
Juventus were struggling badly at the start of the 2008-09 season and then coach Claudio Ranieri seemed on the brink of the sack until two magical Del Piero performances home and away against Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage saved him. At home, Juve won 2-1, with Alex thundering home a stunning 30-yarder. But it was away in the Spanish capital where Del Piero produced perhaps his greatest ever display. The veteran opened the scoring on 17 minutes by curling home a beautiful left footer into the bottom corner, and doubled Juve’s lead for a 2-0 win with another trademark curling free kick. Such was Del Piero's magical showing that, in scenes reminiscent to Ronaldinho in 2005 and Diego Maradona in 1983, he was granted a standing ovation by the Bernabeu faithful when substituted for Paolo De Ceglie seconds before the final whistle.
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