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Happy Birthday Capitano: A brief recap of some personal Alessandro Del Piero memories

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Alex Del Piero has turned 42 this past week. It's a great excuse to remember Pinturicchio's legacy.

Atalanta v Juventus Photo by New Press/Getty Images

Hi, my fellow Juventini, I missed you. As you already know, we’re on an international break and our beloved Juventus is on hold. I was thinking about writing another chapter for “The Lost Jewels of Juventus,” and I was debating with myself between Diego Ribas and Fabian O'Neill. However, I had a tough week and didn’t feel like writing another sad story. Maybe, my soul needed some chicken soup.

Anyway, it’s funny how destiny works, because Juventus made me smile once again. And ironically they are not playing this weekend. I’m telling you this because, on Nov. 9, 1974, Alessandro Del Piero was born. Furthermore, I’m smiling right now — not just because I remember his goals and his playmaking ability, but it's because Alex was my childhood hero and he’s still one of my role models.

Sometimes words are not enough. If we want to recap Del Piero's era with Juventus fully, we’ll need an encyclopedic work or a four-hour documentary. Sure, we can find on the internet a lot of stories, videos and photos of this soccer genius. However, Del Piero is more than a football player. Pinturiccio is the central part of a concept that only real Juventus fans understand. So, I decided to bring to you my favorite Del Piero moments. Some of them are sports achievements, and others are examples of his personality. Nevertheless, these three chapters are meaningful souvenirs of my life and maybe yours as well.

The Artist

Every prominent artist has a signature. They are unique because they offer something new that’s significant inside the frame of their work. Sure, Alex marked a lot of great goals that showcased his incredible skills. By now, you must be thinking of various examples. The superb volley against Batistuta’s Fiorentina in 1994 — which could be one of the greatest goals in soccer’s history — is on the top of my head. Maybe, you prefer the backheel goal versus Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final in 1997. Or what about the double against Real Madrid in 2008 that worth Bernabeu’s standing ovation. Nonetheless, my favorite is “the goal a la Del Piero.” It is a creation that marked a generation of players and fans. Perhaps I’m not fair, as the goal a la Del Piero is not just a goal, it’s an art collection.

This unique kind of play appeared for the first time in the Westfalenstadion on Sept. 13, 1995. During the second half of that match, Pinturicchio controlled the ball in the left flank of the BVB’s territory. He drove the ball onto Borussia’s penalty area and with a series of skillful movements, he hypnotized the defense. Then, he shot a wicked curveball into the far top corner. An authentic stunner. Juventus won that game 3-1.

Juventus FC v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by New Press/Getty Images

Amazingly, two weeks later, Del Piero performed a carbon copy of that goal against Steaua Bucarest. From that moment on, that play has been Del Piero’s trademark. He executed that goal many times during his illustrious career, victimizing a significant number of teams. Del Piero showed us the importance of being an innovator. The way hard work and imagination can help us to put our print in the world.

The Warrior

Not everything was sweet in Alessandro’s soccer life. Alex was already a star entering the 1998-99 season. He was the new face of Juventus and calcio in Italy. The past season he scored 10 goals in the Champions League and he was the reigning Capocannoniere in Serie A at that time. However, Pinturicchio had a date with tragedy. He was playing at the Friuli against Udinese on Nov. 8, 1998, when his knee was severely injured in a challenge with a defender. That season Juventus ended in the sixth place and the injury threatened his career seriously. Del Piero returned the next season, but his acceleration was gone and his world-class first touch was missing. The demigod was just a mere mortal. He played with Italy at the Euros in 2000, where he failed several clear opportunities to score in the final against France. Italy lost that game. The press claimed that he was done, they said he was another choker.

The next year Alessandro’s father died. At that moment, Juventus had a game against Bari and Alex started on the bench. The score was 0-0 in the second half, when Carlo Ancelotti made a gamble and brought Del Piero into the game. In the final minutes, the wizard revived. He tricked a defender with a skillful dribble, then he chipped his shot over Bari’s goalkeeper Jean-François Gillet to break the deadlock. Pinturicchio celebrated the score with tears in his eyes.

That was a turning point, as Del Piero re-invented himself. He wasn’t the fastest player on the pitch, but he was the cleverest. At the 2006 World Cup, Alex silenced his critics. He scored two vital goals that helped Italy to capture the trophy. The first one against Mexico in the group stage, and the second versus Germany in the semifinals at the Westfalenstadion. Del Piero proved that he was a clutch player. He taught us to never give up and don’t be afraid to reinvent ourselves.

Semi-final Germany v Italy - World Cup 2006 Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The Person

As you know, Juventus played in Serie B during the 2006-2007 season due to the Calciopoli scandal. Also, It’s well known that Del Piero stayed at Juventus along Gianluigi Buffon, Mauro Camoranesi, David Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved. They were referred to as the five samurais. When the press asked Alessandro if he was going to leave Juventus, he responded: “A True Gentleman never leaves his lady.” The rest is history. Pinturicchio was the top scorer in Serie B and the next season he was the Cappocanioniere in Serie A. That kind of loyalty is hard to find in today’s material world.

In 2012, Juventus was fighting with Milan for the Scudetto. The Bianconeri were the leaders in the table, and they were playing against a weak Lecce squad in Turin. In the last minutes of the match, the impossible happened. Buffon, the legendary Juventus goalkeeper, made a huge mistake that gave Lecce the equalizer. Everybody in the Juventus Stadium was stunned; suddenly apprehension and nervousness flooded the pitch. Del Piero, ran calmly towards Buffon and shook the hand of the best goalkeeper in history. We knew that everything was going to be OK. Juventus secured the Scudetto the very next week against Cagliari in Trieste.

Juventus FC v Atalanta BC  - Serie A Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Del Piero performed this kind of acts with a lot of people. Fabian Carini, the Uruguayan backup goalkeeper who rarely played for Juventus, remembers that when he was playing for Cagliari. Del Piero called him to pass the holidays together. Carini was shocked because he hadn’t seen Del Piero in three years, and he wasn’t a close friend. Yet, the Juventus captain spent with him that weekend. Del Piero was a professional, a leader and a person that regularly showed us that we must have the same respect for anyone on the planet.

So, these are the anecdotes that I wanted to share with you. I’m looking forward to reading yours in the comments below. See you soon.