Ale – he’s signed! The Del Piero dilemma

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Neil Sherwin ponders the idea of fans getting behind a rival club’s new signing.

After a week or so of “will he, won’t he?” debate, the future of Alessandro Del Piero has been decided with Sydney FC officially announcing the signature of the 2006 World Cup winner on a two year contract, with the option of a third.

The deal, believed to be worth around €3.2 million (c. $4 million), represents a massive coup for the club, and the Hyundai A-League as a whole, as it enters its eighth season.

Del Piero has been a name synonymous with high level European football for the best part of two decades following a glittering career in Italy with Juventus which yielded a host of team and individual honours.

Any supporter would be frothing at the mouth at the prospect of Il Pinturicchio joining their club, and no doubt shirt sales will go through the roof (also look out for the Del Piero range of souvenirs which is no doubt already in production).

However, the excitement over Del Piero’s signature hasn’t just been confined to Sydney FC fans and people connected with the club; it seems that the whole of the football community in Australia is buzzing at the prospect of seeing the great man take on their side.

Fair enough you might say, but it also presents something of a conflict of interest given the fact that a rival of their club is being hugely strengthened.

That isn’t a good thing right?

If Chelsea, to use an example, were to pull off the impossible and lure Lionel Messi to Stamford Bridge would Arsenal and Manchester United supporters be shouting from the rooftops whilst figuratively patting Roman Abramovich and his buddies on the back?

Of course not.

Yet here we have a situation where Sydney FC are adding a player of world class ability to the squad, someone who is also a marketing dream, and fans of other clubs are lapping it up.

It’s a little…strange.

The argument will be made that signing a player of this calibre is not just good news for the club directly involved, but also for the league as a whole, and it’s a point well made.

The Hyundai A-League could do with having its profile raised in any way possible and this is a great opportunity to grace the front and back pages of the print media which so often only chooses to focus on the negatives regarding football.

It’s also a chance to emerge a little bit more from the shadows of Australia’s more established codes, something which has been on everyone’s agenda for a number of years now (see the shifting of the finals series last year to avoid those of the AFL and NRL for example).

How long this goodwill amongst rival supporters lasts remains to be seen though, and come round one of Season Eight at the beginning of October we may see a return to the status quo.

Del Piero’s first competitive game in sky blue will be away to Wellington Phoenix and it’ll be interesting to see what sort of reception the Italian star receives at the Cake Tin.

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Neil Sherwin
Neil has covered the Perth Glory and the Hyundai A-League for five years and is one of Western Australia's most knowledgeable football journalists.

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