Sydney FC have pulled off the biggest coup in Australian football history, completing the signing of former Italian international Alessandro Del Piero.
The 37-year-old striker last night finalised a two-year deal worth around $2 million per season, with the option of a third year if both parties agree to extend his contract.
Del Piero joins the likes of Dwight Yorke and Robbie Fowler as players finishing their illustrious careers within the confines of the A-League, however will go down as the most recognised of the three.
A World Cup winner with Italy, a Champions League and six-time Serie A title winner with Juventus, Del Piero is arguably the best player to grace Italian football.
He commands the respect of the entire football-loving nation, and has earned it through being a truly one-club player throughout his career.
His scoring record at the highest level is phenomenal. His 290 goals at senior level is the all-time record in Juventus history, while his 705 matches sees him the most capped player in the club’s 114-year existence.
Despite his age, Del Piero’s presence on a football pitch is still one of the greatest in the world. So much so that Premier League giants Liverpool attempted a last-ditch bid for the free agent, only to fail in their attempts.
Although Del Piero’s signature has drawn plaudits from around the globe, it is only the first step in building the reputation of football in Australia.
The press conference confirming Del Piero’s transfer to Sydney was televised live throughout Italy on Sky Italia, who have also announced they will now be broadcasting Sydney FC matches for the upcoming season in Turin and across the country.
Yet the next step for the Football Australia hierarchy is to promote the game, not only in Sydney but across the country.
Sydney’s crowd numbers last season often dwindled below 10,000. They will be expected to lift considerably due to the acquisition of a player of Del Piero’s calibre, however they must also take the ‘Del Piero show’ on the road.
Australian football fans should be relishing the opportunity to watch one of football’s greatest talents week in, week out, and they must turn up when he comes to their state.
The signing has put Australian football, and in particular the A-League, on the map. While the spotlight is on our nation, and while our games are being broadcast across the globe, we must take advantage.
Del Piero’s profile in the game is too big to waste. Football Australia should be investing more money than ever into developing young talent to break onto the scene. They should also be promoting a name like Del Piero’s in order to make the game as attractive as possible to other foreign stars.
It doesn’t happen often, but the footballing world’s focus is squarely on Australia at the moment. While Del Piero’s name and stature within the game has made Sydney FC’s signing an incredible one, it is only the first step to advertising the quality of football in Australia.