Alessandro Del Piero signs with Sydney FC for $4M
Former Italy and Juventus forward Alessandro Del Piero is joining Sydney FC in a deal that will make him the highest-profile player in the A-League.
"For the next two years I suppose I can say that I'll be Australian," Del Piero said on Wednesday. "I'm starting a splendid and fantastic adventure. I couldn't have chosen a better situation or a better place."
The two-year deal is reportedly worth $2 million per season, which will make Del Piero the highest paid athlete in Australia's four football codes, including rugby league, rugby union and Australian Rules.
The 37-year-old Del Piero reportedly turned down offers from English Premier League clubs Liverpool and Southampton. He was also linked with moves to the Middle East, China, Argentina, the United States and Switzerland.
"We touched all the continents," Del Piero said. "This choice is far away in terms of kilometres but it's very close in terms of philosophy. ... I can't wait to go and discover a country that everyone describes to me as fantastic."
The A-League, which has had several teams fold in the last two years due to financial problems and dwindling attendance, needs Del Piero as a draw card.
He was a member of Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning team and scored a club-record 286 goals in all competitions over 19 seasons with Juventus. Although he managed just five goals — and only two in Serie A — last season in limited playing time as the Turin club won its first Italian league title since before the 2006 match-fixing scandal.
"We're honoured to have Alessandro sign for Sydney FC," club chief executive Tony Pignata said, sitting next to Del Piero at a press conference in Turin. "It's a momentous occasion."
Pignata added that Del Piero will have his familiar No. 10.
Sydney chairman Scott Barlow called the signing a major coup for the club and a historic day for Australian football.
"This is for all Australian football fans," Barlow added in a statement. "Alessandro Del Piero is a global icon of the game and we are honoured he has chosen Sydney FC, ahead of many other options, as the club where he will begin the next chapter of his illustrious football career."
The A-League's other past marquee signings have been formerly England-based Trinidad and Tobago star Dwight Yorke, who also played for Sydney in 2005-06, and former Liverpool forward Robbie Fowler, who played with the now-defunct North Queensland team and Perth Glory from 2009-11.
Del Piero's future tammate, Brett Emerton, said the Italian player's impact will be much greater than Yorke and Fowler and could start a shift of more star players to Australia.
"I can honestly say that when I left Blackburn for Sydney FC last year, I didn't expect to be playing alongside someone like Del Piero," Emerton said in News Limited newspapers Thursday.
"You only have to look at the calibre of clubs internationally that were chasing him to realize that, even at 37, he is still a world-class striker."
The Sydney Morning Herald featured the signing as the lead item on its sports web page: "Ciao! $4m Del Piero signs for two years."
In The Australian newspaper, a headline said: "It's true, Del Piero signed, sealed."
Late last week, Sydney FC said Del Piero had agreed to contract terms, then had to revise its original statement to say he was in continuing negotiations with the club but had not agreed to a deal.
The marquee status puts players outside the salary cap.
"The only question I asked was if we can win, and they responded 'yes,"' Del Piero said. "I'm not going there for a vacation. I'm going there with total dedication."
Juventus announced early last season that it would not renew Del Piero's contract.
"It will be a big change for me after 19 years with a team which I will continue to support," Del Piero said. "I've done all I could have done here and there couldn't be a better choice for me."
While without a club over the past few months, Del Piero has continued to train. He pledged to be ready for Sydney's season opener at Wellington Phoenix — in New Zealand — on Oct. 6.
The A-League regular season finishes on the last weekend of March, followed by playoffs in April.
Sydney did not qualify for the Asian Champions League this season. It was the inaugural A-League champion in 2006 and won again in 2010.