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At 33, Italy forward Del Piero feels better than ever at Euro 2008

At 33, Italy forward Del Piero feels better than ever at Euro 2008

Alessandro Del Piero is entering this European Championship in the best form of his career _ at the ripe old age of 33.
After leading Serie A with 21 goals, the Juventus captain also feels like Italy's leader, since Fabio Cannavaro was ruled out of the tournament due to injury.
"I'm sorry for Cannavaro. Even if there are others who have the personality and enough appearances to wear the armband, if you ask me if I feel like the captain, I'll respond that I do," Del Piero said. "I'm ready to assume this responsibility."
However, since Del Piero is unlikely to start in Italy's opener against the Netherlands on Monday, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will likely be named captain. Del Piero has made 86 appearances for Italy and Buffon has made 82.
Throughout his national team career _ which began in 1995 _ Del Piero has found himself contesting for a starting spot with various teammates. First, it was Roberto Baggio at the 1998 World Cup. Then Francesco Totti became Italy's star at Euro 2000. Now, entering his seventh major tournament with Italy, Del Piero has fallen behind Antonio Di Natale on the depth chart, while Totti has retired from international play.
"Maybe it's because I'm always here," Del Piero said. "If not, I wouldn't be fighting with anyone for a position."
A few months ago, Del Piero wasn't even assured of making Italy's squad, having been dropped for several friendlies. But coach Roberto Donadoni couldn't ignore it at the end of the season when Del Piero matched the best scoring output of his career.
At the World Cup two years ago, Del Piero took to describing himself as the mythic war hero Achilles, retreating atop his hill before battle.
"I still feel like Achilles inside," the always introspective Del Piero said Saturday. "It's a part of me."
Last season, when Juventus was relegated to Serie B for its role in the Italian match-fixing scandal, Del Piero led the second division with 20 goals. His form over the past two seasons corresponds to his marriage and the birth of his son.
"It certainly changed my life," he said of the developments in his private life. "I'm coming in after two fantastic years, but the earlier (years) weren't bad either."
A few months ago, Del Piero issued an ultimatum to Donadoni that he would only play as a pure forward, not a wing position as the coach had hoped.
"The facts are there for all to see," Del Piero said. "I've been a second forward throughout my career. But if the need arises, I'm open to new things. Nothing is written in stone."


Updated : 2021-02-28 08:13 GMT+08:00