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With the World Cup winner on the verge of another significant personal milestone, Goal.com takes a look back at the career of one of the most likeable characters in the game

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By Mark Doyle

Earlier this week, a well-known sports brand organised a five-a-side game in Milan between two squads of seven players to mark the launch of a new football boot.

The 14 lucky participants were chosen on account of the consistency of their performances in matches arranged by Fubles, the online social sports network.

Much to the delight of those involved, Alessandro Del Piero was the surprise guest - and, better still, the Juventus forward had come kitted out.

However, when he asked the organisers which team he was to line up for, they were stumped; they hadn’t thought of that. It was seven against seven and the addition of the World Cup-winning Del Piero might ever-so-slightly tip the balance in one side’s favour.

Realising his participation hadn’t been factored into the equation, Del Piero promptly quipped: "Great, I can’t even get a game here!"

For the lucky players, having their perception of Del Piero as one of the most likeable figures in the game reinforced was just as satisfying as being given the opportunity to share a pitch with a true legend.

As he himself alluded to, Del Piero is now longer a regular in the Juventus front line and he has been afforded little game time by new coach Antonio Conte this season. But his status as one of Italian football’s greatest servants has long been established.

Indeed, should he feature at all in tonight’s clash with Lazio, Del Piero will make his 700th club appearance. And the fact that all but the first 14 of those - played in his Padova days - have been in the black and white shirt makes the feat all the more remarkable.

THREE DEL PIERO DELIGHTS

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ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO

Juventus 3-2 Fiorentina
December 4, 1994
With Juve having come from two goals down at home to Fiorentina to draw level, Del Piero then won the game for the hosts with an over-the-shoulder volley with the outside of his right boot.
Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Juventus November 13, 1995
With the game in Germany delicately poised at 1-1, the then-21-year-old Del Piero put Juve ahead with the type of sublime curling effort into the top corner which would become his trademark
Real Madrid 0-2 Juventus November 5, 2008
After arguably his finest performance in a Juventus shirt, Del Piero was applauded off the field by the home fans after scoring twice at the Santiago Bernabeu, his second a trademark free-kick

In a career of such an incredible length, there have been numerous highlights. It would be impossible to list them all, but a couple stand out.

The 20-year-old Del Piero had already established himself as one of the most promising young players in Serie A by December 1994 – he scored a hat-trick against Parma in what was his first start for Juventus – but he had not nailed down a regular place in a Juventus line-up which featured such luminaries as Fabrizio Ravanelli, Gianluca Vialli and, most significantly, Roberto Baggio.

However, with his wonderous volley against Fiorentina, a goal which not only earned Juve a dramatic come-from-behind victory over one of their most bitter rivals but also earned him an iconic status with the Bianconeri which remains today, it became clear that Del Piero was the future and Baggio was the past.

Del Piero went from strength to strength thereafter and enjoyed a truly outstanding campaign in the 1997-98 season, establishing himself as one of the best players in the world by hitting 32 goals in 47 games as he inspired his club to Champions League glory.

By this time the 'Gol alla Del Piero' (the Del Piero goal) had become a part of the modern footballing lexicon, a tribute to the fact that the Juventus No.10 had mastered the art of cutting in from the left wing before curling the ball with the precision of a surgeon into the top right corner of the goal, with his strike in an away win over Borussia Dortmund during the group stages of the 1995-96 Champions League perhaps the finest example of this particular technique.

It was at the Westfalenstadion, of course, that Del Piero would enjoy his crowning moment in an Italian shirt.

Still haunted by his misses in the Euro 2000 final defeat by France, Del Piero deservedly achieved redemption when he sealed his country’s progress to the 2006 World Cup final by scoring the second goal in the 2-0 victory over tournament hosts Germany in Dortmund.

Five days later in Berlin, Del Piero slotted home the Azzurri’s fourth penalty in their shootout win over France.

ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO | 699 Games, 286 Goals

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Season League
Coppa CL/CWC
All comps
1991-92 4/0 0/0 0/0 4/0
1992-93 10/1 0/0 0/0 10/1
1993-94 11/5 1/0 2/0 14/5
1994-95 29/8 10/1 12/2 51/11
1995-96 29/6 3/1 11/6 43/13
1996-97 22/8 4/0 9/7 35/15
1997-98 32/21 5/1 10/10 47/32
1998-99 8/2 2/1 4/0 14/3
1999-2000 34/9 2/1 9/2 45/12
2000-01 25/9 2/0 6/0 33/9
2001-02 32/16 4/1 10/4 46/21
2002-03 24/16 1/2 13/5 38/23
2003-04 22/8 5/3 4/3 31/14
2004-05 30/14 1/0 10/3 41/17
2005-06 33/12 5/5 7/3 45/20
2006-07 35/20 2/3 0/0 37/23
2007-08 37/21 4/3 0/0 41/24
2008-09 31/13 3/2 9/6 43/21
2009-10 23/9 1/2 5/0 29/11
2010-11 33/8 2/0 10/3 45/11
2011-12 8/0 0/0 0/0 8/0
Total
512/206 55/26 126/54 699/286

In terms of career highlights and memorable goals, we could go on. This, after all, is a player who was given a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu after a sublime display against Real Madrid in 2008.

But it is the dignity and humility with which Del Piero carries himself off the field which really sets him apart. As Roma’s own iconic No.10, Francesco Totti, said after Del Piero recently turned 37: "What an opponent! What a player! What a person!"

After raising €220,250 for the Japanese Red Cross with the sale of T-shirts he himself designed to aid the relief work in Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami which rocked the country earlier this year, a gracious Del Piero stated: "This confirms that in football, when it comes to issues such as this, there are no rivalries or friction, but unity. It is a beautiful thing, and I am proud of it."

In truth, it is Juventus, and indeed Italy, which should be proud of him.

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