By Paolo Menicucci
In recent years Juventus FC have sold the likes of Roberto Baggio, Christian Vieri, Thierry Henry, Filippo Inzaghi, Zinedine Zidane and Edgar Davids. However, striker Alessandro Del Piero has never been on sale at any price.
Having made his Bianconeri debut in 1993, Del Piero looks likely to remain a one-club man after signing a contract with Juventus until 2008 last season. He is the symbol of the club, the spirit of the team, the player the fans identify with.
Del Piero scored the only goal at FC Bayern München on Wednesday to give Juventus a fourth successive win and ensure that they qualify for the UEFA Champions League knockout stages as Group C winners. "I hoped we could start well because we have been working hard, but honestly I didn't expect things to go this well," Del Piero told uefa.com.
Juventus have won eight of their nine Serie A games and Del Piero has scored four goals despite suffering an achilles tendon injury last month. "You can only play well when you are fully fit," he said. "I couldn't play at my best, so I decided to stop for two weeks. As a result, I have been scoring goals and playing well."
During the summer Juventus appointed Fabio Capello to replace Marcello Lippi, who was named Italy coach. Capello has already impressed Del Piero. "I rated him as a great coach when we were facing his teams," he said. "These first months have only confirmed that."
The forward, who will turn 30 on 9 November, believes Lippi and Capello have similar qualities. "There are no great differences between them," Del Piero said. "Although they make their teams play differently on certain occasions and also interact with the group in a different way."
Capello has certainly left his mark on the Juve defence. The Bianconeri have conceded only two goals in Serie A and are the only side who have not let in a goal in the Champions League - something that Del Piero attributes in part to a change of personnel at the club.
"The arrival of the new coach and some new players have given the whole team extra motivation," he said. "We all knew how good Emerson, [Fabio] Cannavaro, [Jonathan] Zebina and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were. But there are also young players like [Manuele] Blasi and [Olivier] Kapo, who have great skills."
But Del Piero is still the crowd favourite at the Stadio Delle Alpi. When he was substituted in the second half against Bayern two weeks ago, the Bianconeri fans sang his name for several minutes afterwards.
"It was incredible," Del Piero said. "I have been here for more than ten years and the fans have given me so much evidence of their love, but never as much as that night. I almost felt embarrassed. This is the main reason why I'm so happy at Juve.
There is a great harmony between myself, the club and the fans."
The forward knows exactly how he wants to repay those supporters. "We want to win the Champions League," he said. "We have won every game so far but we haven't played at our best yet. But we have always been very focused. I think this is an essential asset if you want to win trophies."
Alessandro Del Piero was one of over 50 players to introduce the new adidas F50+ boot in this week's UEFA Champions League Matchday 4 and UEFA Cup Matchday 2 matches
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