Del Piero celebrates as Cassano sulks

Alessandro Del Piero trotted off the San Siro pitch on Saturday evening a very happy and contented man.

There were five minutes remaining when he was substituted; having given Juventus a 2-0 lead at AC Milan, the little forward had all but finished his work for the evening.

You would have expected the Bianconeri faithful in the stands to rise to hail their captain – but clusters of home fans were also ready to applaud a vintage display from the veteran star. Not only vintage, but record-breaking: Del Piero’s goal took him past Giampiero Boniperti’s 178 Serie A mark for the Old Lady.

A job well done and time to flop into the comfy seats on the bench, or soothe those ageing bones in the bath? Not with a vital win tantalisingly within reach – and there he was alongside Luigi Delneri cajoling his team-mates to see out the game.  

That moment more than anything sums up Del Piero’s undiminished love for the game and he obviously appreciates doing something he enjoys – especially when it produces special nights like Saturday.

At the final whistle he was back on to the pitch to celebrate with his team-mates who had held on for a 2-1 victory and in turn receive their plaudits for the part he had played in propelling Juve into the title race.

There's still a mental and physical toughness about Del Piero and an instinct for the half-chance that ensured he followed play all the way into the Milan penalty area after Momo Sissoko had made a right hash of his own.

When the midfielder regained possession, Ale was lurking and with no backlift dispatched the ball into the back of the net without a second thought.

Del Piero will be 36 next week and he joked before kick-off at the weekend that it could be his last appearance at the San Siro. With more and more players continuing well into their late thirties, he may have second thoughts about calling time on his career at end of the season.

The club seem to be working out a contract package which would see the player move upstairs to the boardroom – although that may come after a hiatus in the MLS.

Del Piero seems to have come through that mid-life crisis where every substitution or omission from the starting XI was taken as a personal slight and in the closing years of his career each minute on the pitch is now taken has a gift.

There is still unfinished business – a 200-goal landmark to reach, maybe one last Italy cap, a new Juve stadium to grace and of course playing in the Champions League where the rest of Europe took him to their collective hearts.

Already this season there have been standing ovations in Dublin and Manchester where Juve played in the Europa League but you just know that leading the team he joined in 1993 back into the premier competition still holds a special place in his heart.

In an age of big egos, it's Del Piero’s craving for success at the basic football level that makes him stand out. You could say that Alex has the perfect life – which is something the weekend’s other headline-grabber, Antonio Cassano, is a long way from.

By all reports, Italian football’s tortured soul insulted just about everyone associated with Sampdoria after refusing to attending a club awards evening.

President Riccardo Garrone got an earful of abuse, as did a few team-mates, followed by the usual round of slamming doors before he stomped off home.

The new domesticated Fanantonio claimed he just wanted to be with his pregnant wife: the club demanded a written apology and when none was forthcoming they basically sacked him. So much for player power.

However, the Football League must sanction any termination of a player’s contract and they are likely to oppose such a measure.

A chastened Cassano claimed he called Garrone to apologise, but get ready for a public kiss and make up followed by Samp selling their sulky star in the January transfer window for 20million Euro.

There will be no problem finding a taker but maybe at times Cassano must wish he could just find a way to play football and live his life in the perfect manner of Del Piero.

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