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Occupy Juventus - Making Sense Of The Del Piero Retirement Mess

Okay, that title may be a bit misleading. I don't think anyone in the world other than Agnelli, the Juventus management, and Del Piero himself can actually say for a fact what is going on right now. But all of us can speculate. And after spending 2 whole days with a huge lump in my stomach as if I were 5 and didn't eat my broccoli, there are things I need to say even for the sake of just getting them off my chest. So here we go.

A little bit background info - What the fuck happened?

On Tuesday, October 18, Juventus' "savior" president Andrea Agnelli, son of the legendary Juve president Umberto Agnelli, decided that a shareholders meeting was the ideal time to announce that Alessandro Del Piero - arguably the most legendary player to ever wear a Juventus jersey - was playing his last season as a Bianconero. This puzzling and seemingly distasteful move by Agnelli was taken in shock, disgust, and despair by Juventus fans and football lovers across the world. No official word has been given from Juventus or Del Piero since the announcement, while the issue has been constantly talked about by the media, fans, online forum boards, social media sites (Del Piero was trending on Twitter all day Tuesday), etc.

Why the outrage?

Sheesh, were do I start.

First and foremost, this announcement was not Agnelli's to make. Alessandro Del Piero has been synonymous with Juventus most of his career/most our lifetime. He is the biggest status symbol the club has, the captain that has led us through green pastures and dark, Mordor-like quests. For me, he IS Juventus and has been ever since I started watching the Old Lady in the early nineties. His entire career impacted every day of my life since I can remember. If there was one decency this man deserved, it was to call his own shot on how and when he wants to end his Juventus fairytale. That is the least Agnelli could do. A measly shareholders meeting is the last place to announce something big like this.

Second, the timing is terrible. It's the middle of October and we are only 6 games into the season. 6 GAMES! Why announce something like this now? The team is just starting to learn Conte's ways, the Scudetto talk is cooled of and everyone is getting their heads straight mentally, and bam you hit players with something like this. It feels off, like it was not planned well at all, or like it was planned too well and used for some sort of a political agenda. Such a shame. In my opinion, there were 3 ways this could've been handled.

  1. Make the announcement before the season starts - This is probably the riskiest one, but by doing so, you make this one hell of a special season. New stadium, new coach, a few promising new signings, and a season when every Juventus fan will have his eyes glued to the TV for every match to watch Del Piero play. Plus, you're setting expectations. Every player goes into the season with an extra edge, an additional motivation - to give Del Piero the send off he deserves. You automatically ensure that every single game is sold out in the first season of the new stadium. Would it have added more pressure on everyone? Probably, but it wasn't like the pressure wasn't big to begin with. We all know what the weight of the shirt is and any player wearing that jersey does too. I would've hated the "Juve must win Scudetto in ADP's honor" media bullshit, but that would've been something most realistic fans would've seen through. Plus, all of us distant diehard fans would've had more time to plan our pilgrimage to Torino to watch Del Piero play live.
  2. Make the announcement after Christmas - This approach would've probably been my move. Give this new team half a season to gel and get a feel for each other and the coach, then send them home for Natale and family time, and when they're back in training for the second half of the season and feeling good, activate the Nitro - Del Piero is playing his last 6 months. Mamma mia, can you imagine the feeling, especially if we are at a half-decent spot on the table like we have been the previous two years? It would have possibly single-handedly erased the fear of Juve collapsing in an embarrassing fashion for those last 6 months. Everyone would be focused and motivated to finish this one off for our capitano. Grande.
  3. Make the announcement at the end of the season - I call this the Michael Jordan '93 move. The season is over, you can leave on a high ground if it was a Scudetto-wining season, or look back at it positively since it's the last one either way. Everyone would be shocked, yes, remember how it was when Nedved retired? Still, the farewell match would have been EPIC! Not that it won't be either way, but I'm just sayin'. The worst part is that the fans would've loved to know in advance and plan to see Alex play live, but oh well.

So why the hell did this happen?

There are a couple of theories out there (or in my contrived mind). The most obvious one is that Del Piero isn't getting any younger or fitter anytime soon, and Agnelli simply made a mistake announcing his departure too early. Let's be frank - Del Piero is already having a tough time finding minutes this season. Many of us should have (and some of you probably did) see Del Piero's relationship with Juventus ending at the end of this year, especially after taking a paycut and signing a one year contract over the summer. However, it was easy to avoid thinking about it. The excitement around this new season was immense, we all started convincing ourselves that Juve will qualify for the Champions League and he will stay one more year to play in the CL in our new stadium, etc. As for Agnelli, the safe approach is to just say he made a terrible mistake, he is probably home hiding in the corner crying in embarassment, and he will do his utmost to make it up to the club, the fans, and most importantly, to Pinturicchio.

A more dramatic theory is the "Agnelli vs. Moggi era" conspiracy. Some people are speculating that Agnelli is trying to push Del Piero off the squad finally, like he did with Nedved and to a lesser extent with Camoranesi and Trezeguet. If you've been following Andrea's behavior since coming on as a president, this one can be pretty easy to deduce. He was never a fan or a supporter of the triade that ruled before him, and he has really tried to distance himself away from most things from the Moggi era. Hell, he didn't even invite Moggi & Giraudo to the stadium opening ceremony! Yes, he is a public supporter of the 29 Scudetti quest, but in all honesty that one is more of a club & fan issue than a Moggi issue. Plus it can be seen as him trying to strike a balance so he doesn't seem overly judgmental of the legendary management before him.

Lastly, one can even argue that Agnelli is jealous of the power and aura around Alessandro Del Piero. By letting him go at the end of the season, Agnelli's is getting ready to take uninterrupted ownership of the club without worrying about upsetting the ever-so-respected captain. It would be certainly interesting to see how proponents of this theory respond if Agnelli offers Del Piero a management role. I don't think Agnelli will ever be fully in control as long as Del Piero is around in one way or another. Is Agnelli's ego really that big? Is he that ballsy to put himself before the team and before the team's icon?

Truth be told, no one really knows for sure what the motive is. There have sure been plenty of negative reactions to the announcement in the meantime:

Personally, this hasn't really hit me yet. It will be a while before it sinks in. I am sure this is the case with many of you. Honestly, I cannot even imagine seeing a Juventus match without seeing Alessandro Del Piero in black and white. I don't think I've ever had that experience. I know I don't want to. As I said on Twitter, I don't see myself wearing another Juve jersey with the number 10 ever again. It feel so pointless. No one will ever be able to live up to it.

Realistically, the conclusion to the Del Piero & Juve love affair was going to happen some day, and I guess we know now when that day is. But the way Andrea Agnelli is approaching this is pissing me off to no end. Totally disrespectful, with a cold, business-like tone reading a pre-written statement like he can't think of words for himself. Does one think of anything else other than superlatives upon hearing Alessandro Del Piero's name?

This cannot be the way it all ends for my idol. It cannot be how he is treated. A class act his whole life, he deserves so much more than this. As someone put it so simply, this Juventus doesn't deserve Del Piero.

It is undoubtedly time for some serious damage control. If Agnelli lets this get out of hand, he will regret it very soon. If this new Juve project of his is going to succeed, he needs continuous support from fans and former players and coaches related to the club. The last thing he wants is to make us pick between himself and Del Piero.

One thing everyone needs to remember is that this whole thing is not about Agnelli, Juventus, or us the fans - it is about Alessandro Del Piero. He deserves more than we can possibly give him during this last season of his and his farewell. Let's at least give it our best shot.