Alex, Prince of Turin
On the 8th of November 1998, Del Piero was forced to take
an eight month break from soccer due to a terrible injury. In
that period he started college, supposedly met the love of his
life and signed the biggest contract in the history of the sport.
Alex still plays for Juventus, still considered, although 25
years of age, as a talent not fully fulfilled. Perhaps that
Will Del Piero really become the star of the upcoming European
Championship? That is what he most desires. He finally wants
to make his mark on the international stage.
|Alex did not have a successful
World Cup in 1998
Three strikes, you're out
Surely he does not have the best memories of Euro '96. He then
played only 45 minutes in the match against Russia, Sacchi benched
him in the other games.
Just before the World Cup at France '98, Del Piero was in great
shape. He had scored 20 goals in the league and led Juve to
their 25th scudetto. The final match of the season, the Champions
League final against Real Madrid was supposed to be the perfect
end of a fantastic year. But Alex was unlucky, he was injured
few days before the final and was unable to give his best performance
on the pitch.
The knee injury proved to be more serious then at first realized
and prevent Alex from preparing well for the upcoming World
Cup. He disappointed in the tournament, not scoring a single
goal and remained in the shadow of the experienced Roberto Baggio.
Del Piero's best international tournament so far was the trial
cup before the World Cup in 1998, the Tournoi de France. He
then scored 3 goals in 2 matches and became top goalscorer of
After a disappointing World Cup tournament in France, Alex went
through some tough moments. The criticism from the press didn't
bother him as much as the accusations fom Zdenek Zeman. The
coach of Roma at the time claimed that it was a common practice
at Juve to provide players with doping substances. In particular
he singled out Del Piero and Gianluca Vialli as two players
whose muscular mass had increased at a rapid pace.
|Alex was badly injured
in November 1999
The day before his birthday
Zeman's accusations caused an extensive investigation of many
clubs and players in Italy, a few players were actually caught.
Although none of the big names in the sport were found to have
violated the regulations, it is surely a period Alex would like
to erase from his memory. But the worst was yet to come.
On the fateful day of November 8 1998, Juventus hosted Udinese
for a league match. That was the day before Del Piero's 24th
birthday on the 9th. He was supposed to spend the day in a pleasant
mood, receiving presents, drinking champaigne and having birthday
cake baked by his mother, Bruna. Instead came a terrible knee
injury, tears and uncertainty of the future.
In the 89th minute of the match, Del Piero started a run towards
the Udinese goal, entered the penalty area and shot at goal.
The shot wasn't great but he experienced a fierce tackle from
defender Marco Zanchi. Alex didn't get up for a good while,
he left knee was in agony. He was taken off the field on a stretcher
and few then suspected he would be gone for 8 months. Juventus,
leading the Serie A at the time, experienced the worst season
in 10 years and finished 7th in the league.
A specialist from Colorado
The injured Juventus forward travelled to Lyon for a medical
consultation. The French doctors sustained that his injury was
serious and required surgery. They were in agreement that Del
Piero should travel to Vail in Colorado and undergo surgery
by the world famous surgeon Richard Steadman. He specializes
in sports injuries and has been undertaking complicated knee
operations for years. His list of past clients includes skiers
Marc Girardelli, Picabo Street and Deborah Comagnoni, tennis
player Steffi Graf and soccer players Nicola Berti and Lothar
The preparations for sugery lasted four days. Finally Dr. Steadman
fixed what had been damaged during a two hour surgery. The doctor
was of the opinion that everything had gone well and Del Piero
could pick up where he left of after 6-8 months of rehabilitation.
Alex traveled to Vail a second time and the doctor was positive
that he was recovering well and would be ready to play the Champions
League final in Barcelona on the 25th of May. Unfortunately,
Juventus was eliminated in the semi-final and there was no reason
for Alex to rush back into play. He could spend time on things
outside the soccer world.
The contract of his dreams
Alex' contract with Juventuz, worth over $3 million per year,
ended in June 2000. Europe's biggest clubs made frequent requests
to buy Del Piero. Manchester United were willing to offer $30
million to the club and a wage of $4.5 million for the player
to earn annually. But Del Piero preferred to stay In Turin.
Claudio Pasqualin was the man to speak Alex' case and negotiated
with Luciano Moggi for a new contract. The talks lasted for
a long time but Pasqualin finally got his way and secured Del
Piero a contract worth $5.5 million a year. At the time no other
player earned this kind of money in soccer.
But his wage at the club is roughly just half of Alex' income.
Sponsor contracts with Adidas, Pepsi, Luxottica and Cepu make
up the rest and accumulate to about $11 million a year.
Being rich, handsome, intelligent and single, Del Piero was
considered the most attractive man in Italy. In spite of this,
unlike many of his collegues, he was never surrounded by beautiful
women, he didn't hang out in night clubs, he didn't provide
gossip for the tabloids. He preferred the quiet family life,
the company of his mother Bruna, his mather Gino and his older
|Alex and Stefano
Stefano Del Piero also tried his luck on the pitch in his days,
playing for Sampdoria and Pro Gorizia. Later he made sure his
younger brother became a player. "I was sick often as a
kid", Alex recalls. "My mother worried about my health
and didn't want me to play soccer. She didn't want me to sweat
and catch a cold, so she would only let me play goalkeeper.
I couldn't disobey because the window of our house in Conegliano
overlooked the soccer field so she would easily find out. After
some time, Stefano explained to her how I was unhappy playing
goalkeeper and saw to it that I was allowed to run around the
pitch. That is how I started out playing soccer."
In November 1999, Alex revealed in an interview with Guerin
Sportivo that he had fallen in love, but he wished not to say
anything else about it since he wanted to keep his personal
life private. Since that time, no one has managed to find out
the name of his chosen one, what she looks like and what occupies
her time. Some have speculated that Alex, tired of all the rumours
about his private life, made up the story to get the reporters
off his back.
Thus it is not certain whether Del Piero met someone, however
it is certain that he lost a friend. Angelo Di Livio, his compatriot
during many years at Juventus, left for Fiorentina. "Alex
is addicted to the phone. He constantly talks on the phone and
people call him all the time. When I close my eyes I can see
Del Piero on the phone. It is because of him I have come to
despise phones. But besides that he is a very cheerful boy.
He hasn't let the money and fame change who he is."
|Del Piero's companion Angelo
Although Di Livio is 8 years older than Alex, they have many
things in common. They met in 1991, both at the time playing
for Serie B club Padova. After two seasons, they both transfered
to Juventus. Del Piero's debut in Serie A came only a week after
Di Livio's. Their physical characteristics are also very similar,
both are 173 cm tall and weigh 73 kgs.
After Di Livio's departure, Alessio Tacchinardi became Alex'
new roommate on the road. Perhaps Alex spends less time on the
phone these days, as he as enrolled at the University of Urbino
in October and is majoring in sociology.
The long awaited day of Alex' comeback to soccer finally came
on the 10th of July 1999. He attended his first training with
the team after a long break. The first spectators to witness
his return to the game were the citizens of Cesena. Juventus
played Rotor Rostelmash in the Intertoto Cup in Cesena, and
Alex replaced Kovacevic in the 2nd half to score a goal.
|Alex and Pippo are still
Finally, on the 29th of August, the league started up again.
Considering his health issues, 1999/2000 was a very successful
season for Del Piero. As the only player in the squad he played
all 34 matches. But he was heavily criticized for his lack of
goals. Throughout the season he scored 10 goals, 8 from penalties.
Some people claimed he now played more for the team than for
himself and pointed to his many assists. Others thought it was
caused by a conflict with Filippo Inzaghi. Both players called
a press conference to underline that there were no problems
The confirmation of Alex' comeback finally came at the very
end of the season. On the 7th of May 2000, he scored a great
goal from a header vs Parma. From this point onwards, most people
were in agreement Alex had returned.
This article is adapted from "Alessandro Del Piero, Ksiaze
Nozna Plus nr. 6, June 2000. The images are not original.