An end of a Serie A era
Alessandro Del Piero, Juventus
When the saying ‘all good things come to an end’ came about, it probably wasn’t intended that it would all come to an end at the same time. Nonetheless, however sad the truth is, it has happened all at once in Serie A.
The closing weeks of the Serie A 2011/2012 campaign was filled with high emotion that few would have predicted, in the midst of no less than nine players stepping down from their respective Italian teams.
It is the greats like Alessandro Del Piero, Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi who have all said their final goodbyes to their clubs.
And although some may have moved on to write their final chapters in their lives, others have retired altogether and they will forever be remembered for their contribution to football on ‘the boot’.
Feared by defences, but admired by all, Alessandro Del Piero will forever remain an icon for Juventus and above all, Italian football.
After a long and memorable career the 37-year-old has finally hung up his Bianconero boots and is in search of a regular football before finishing off his career altogether.
“I was born to play football, I am fine and I will continue to do so,” said Del Piero.
The Padova youth product has graced the Italian peninsula with sublime goals, classy leadership and the unforgettable tongue-celebration, ‘Il Pinturicchio’- as known by the fans. He has left a void in the Old Lady’s heart that will be exceptionally difficult to repair.
With six Scudetti (excluding the two stripped ones) to his name, a Champions League, FIFA World Cup and many more titles to his name, there are few Italian players to be as equally as successful on the Mediterranean shores.
One such player who comes close is former Juventus teammate Filippo Inzaghi.
Although his final years on the field may have been plagued with more injuries than the Palestine locust plague, ‘Pippo’ has left his mark on every ‘calcio’ fanatic’s heart as well.
Marking his 300th appearance for Milan, along with his 156th Serie A career goals, on his ultimate game of the season, Inzaghi is set to retire from football altogether.
“We hoped, suffered, celebrated and rejoiced. We lifted cups and won titles together in our hearts. We have always been on the same wavelength. And no one can ever take that away from us,” he wrote in an open letter to the fans when announcing his departure.
So often the protagonist at the most crucial of times, Inzaghi continuously proved his critics wrong by coming back after each injury with passion.
His two goals in the Champions League final against Liverpool in Athens on May 2007 was just the ink to one page of an archived history book he has written in Italian football and with the Azzurri.
Like Pippo, Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf, all formed part of a golden era for Milan which spread for a decade and more and their presence in the Azzurri 2006 World Cup winning squad will not be forgotten.
With their Milan and Serie A careers having come to an end, the trio will be moving on to pastures new in order to close off their elongated and unforgettable careers.
“I’ve won a lot but out of respect for the club and myself, I would like to go and try a different experience where I will be able to do something good,” the defender said in his departing press conference.
A move to the MLS is expected for Nesta, while Gattuso may head for one last season to former club Glasgow Rangers and the future of the Dutchman is yet to be decided.
A colourful career would be the word to describe Seedorf’s time on the field; winning everything he could with Ajax Amsterdam, Real Madrid and Milan. He also became the first and only player, to date, to win four Champions League titles with three different clubs, and it is only on the international stage where he has fallen short.
An outright and humble professional on and off the field, Italian football has lost one of its good guys.
Along with the Milan quartet Massimo Oddo, who spent his last season on-loan at Lecce from the Milanello outfit, meant that Massimo Ambrosini and Daniele Bonera are the last two remaining team members from the 2007 Champions League success.
Oddo was also part of the World Cup winning squad and after a 19 year career he has decided to move into other areas of football.
Gianluca Zambrotta is the fifth Milan player to call it quits and was also a member of Marcello Lippi’s winning Azzurri squad in Germany.
The versatile full-back joins the list of greats to end calcio’s era along with the Georgian Kakha Kaladze, who spent a decade at Milan and two years with Genoa, and Marco Di Vaio- a symbol of Italian football,l but one which never reached the heights deserved.
The tears on the final day of the campaign were not held back by any player, fan or member of management as the surreal reality, of seeing some of the men who defined Serie A over the past decade and more, finally hit home and leaving a gap in football that will be missing next season.