Straight from the dark heart of Italy
It was one announcement nobody had expected to hear at a Juventus shareholders meeting: Alex del Piero is being shown the door at the end of the season.
Those weren’t the exact words uttered by club president Andrea Agnelli, who had been boring everyone to tears with a list of figures and obviously recognising the need to ensure those present didn’t drift off to the land of nod.
The facts were, of course, presented in a sugar-coated fashion that demanded some clarification.
"Our captain Alessandro Del Piero really wanted to stay with us for what will be his final year." mumbled Agnelli. "Let’s dedicate a massive round of applause to him."
Obviously everyone only heard the applause bit and they kept clapping until their brains kicked into gear and they understood that they were in fact applauding an ill-judged spot of public relations.
In fairness, Del Piero announced when he extended his contract last February that it would be his last, but it is doubtful that he ever thought the club would dismiss him in such a manner in a meeting room on a grey October morning.
There could perhaps have a more dignified announcement in keeping with the Old Lady’s tradition of grand gestures to its most loyal servants, but this is a new Juve run like any other major company - once you’re out; you may as well clear desk straightaway.
Del Piero followers will see it as two decades of loyal service cut down with a curt goodbye from a younger man whose family have always kept the 36-year-old close to their hearts.
There is little time for sentiment in sport when your powers are on the wane, and already this season Filippo Inzaghi and Francesco Totti have both felt the icy blast of being left out in the cold.
There is certainly a chilly new breeze sweeping down from the Alps into Turin, and the club captain is no longer a regular, even under former teammate Antonio Conte. That said, last weekend against Chievo he saved a certain goal at one end and then hit the post at the other having only come on as a second-half substitute, so he is certainly still a useful member of the squad.
How well the announcement goes down within the squad and affects Conte’s relationship with Del Piero remains to be seen. As of yet the veteran has kept his own counsel, but the feeling is that he was not privy to the decision to make the announcement on Tuesday.
The bombshell would seem to be the closing of an long chapter in the club’s history so that Juventus can finally get their house in order. Agnelli has been staring at a Ä95million black hole that does not look like it is going to get smaller any time soon.
For the Oxford graduate, the figures are totally unacceptable and like the rest of us there will be an extended period of tightening of belts, financially speaking, with there likely to be fewer big contracts and the focus likely to turn to younger players, which may see Sebastian Giovinco return to claim the No.10 shirt next season.
There may be some rather testing times ahead for those running the club, but what of Alex and his final months as he plans a farewell tour of the peninsula?
Well, he may never add to his 44 Champions League goals with the club, but the way Juve are struggling to convert chances he could yet be afforded the opportunity to get closer to the 200-mark of Serie A goals – he is currently on 185.
Looking further ahead to when the curtain comes down next May, the USA could well provide an option, with New York considered a likely destination for one last hurrah, with the general consensus being that he would then return to Turin to join legions of men in suits.
We can only hope that any future statements from the club are made with the sort of class Del Piero has demonstrated on the pitch.
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