Serie A Blog: Ciao ragazzi e grazie mille to a host of Serie A veterans
As Juve lift the 2012 Scudetto, we bid farewell to an historic Serie A season and some historic Serie A careers...
The romantics in the Juventus Stadium sang “Un altro anno” (another season) following the 28th minute goal by club captain Alessandro Del Piero, his 289th goal for Juve in 704 games, and the whole stadium rose to acknowledge the final appearance in front of his home fans of this club legend and all-round gentleman.
It was fitting that the club's all-time record goalscorer should finish his Serie A career with a goal worthy of the man, a clever, curling shot from outside the box which nestled in the corner beyond the reach of the Atalanta keeper, Giorgio Frezzolini.
His goal also helped ensure that the newly-crowned champions Juventus finished their Serie A campaign undefeated, a feat only achieved twice before but never in a 38-game season.
Del Piero's withdrawal with half-an-hour remaining brought a standing ovation with chants of "Un capitano, c’è solo un capitano" [“One captain. There’s only one captain”] as well as "Alessandro Del Piero olè" for the Bianconeri legend and in a hearfelt message posted on his website, Del Piero returned the favour with his own expression of gratitude:
"NOTHING CAN BE BETTER THAN..."
Than eight Scudetti. Than a promotion from Serie B. Than Coppa Italia (let's hope two). Than four Italian Super Cups. Than Champions League. Than Uefa Super Cup. Than Intercontinental Cup. Than a goal scored against Fiorentina. Than a Del Piero-style goal. Than a goal in Tokyo. Than my tears. Than a goal in Bari.
Than a back-heel volley goal in a derby. Than a goal for Avvocato. Than a tongue stuck out in a game against Inter. Than an assist to David. Than goal number 187. Than a goal in Germany. Than Berlin. Than a goal scored against Frosinone. Than a top goalscorer title in Serie B. Than top goal scorer in serie A.
Than a standing ovation at the Bernabeu. Than 704 matches in the black-and-white jersey. Than 289 goals. Than a free kick scored that meant the Scudetto. Than a goal against Atalanta. Than any record. Than jersey No. 10 with the name Del Piero. Than the captain's armband.
"Nothing, but ... what you have given me in these 19 years,” said Del Piero.
"I'm happy that you have smiled, cheered, cried, sung, shouted for me and with me. No colour will ever be brighter for me than black and white. You've made my dream come true. More than any other thing, today I just want to say THANK YOU.
And according to his team-mate, Andrea Pirlo, Del Piero has refused a proposal by the Juventus board to retire his number 10 shirt.
"Juventus wanted to retire the number 10 shirt now that Alessandro is leaving the club, but he asked them not to do so," Pirlo told Sky Sport Italia.
"I agree with his decision. It's unthinkable that someone will be up to Del Piero's legacy soon, but I am sure someone will, in the future."
Allowing youngsters the opportunity to dream of wearing the Juventus no. 10 jersey as worn by other luminaries such as Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio and our own Liam Brady is a true mark of the man and reflects his desire this season to deflect any controversy about his limited appearances and instead insist that the focus always remained on the club's goals and not himself.
Del Piero still has the small matter of the Coppa Italia final this Sunday night at the Olimpico in Rome where they will face a Napoli side looking to put aside their disappointment at failing to qualify for the Champions League and end the season with some silverware.
To achieve a Scudetto and Coppa Italia double while remaining undefeated would indeed be a fitting end to Del Piero's glorious Bianconeri career.
Milan say goodbye to an era of stars
Last weekend saw time being called on many other illustrious Serie A careers, particularly in Milan where many Rossoneri hung up their boots.
Rino Gattuso, Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf, Pippo Inzaghi, Gianluca Zambrotta and Mark Van Bommel have all decided to depart the San Siro which leaves Massimiliano Allegri with a massive rebuilding job over the summer.
“Game over”, said Rino Gattuso. “When I saw Nesta’s press conference I knew that my moment had come as well”
“I couldn’t give any more on a footballing level, I felt empty, I didn’t feel like a warrior any more but more like a mascot, a pennant.
“I didn’t expect to have a fixed place (in the team), the only one of those is death. It’s normal that no-one likes to sit on the bench but I’ve always respected my coaches.”
Nesta had spoken of his desire to leave with a sense of dignity and respect and of his desire not to become a bit-part player.
"When I finish the season I think about the following one, and I think that with the rhythm of the season, what with the Champions League and everything else, I won't be able to play all the time," Nesta told reporters at Milan's training ground.
"And seeing as I can't just sit on the bench and wait my turn... if I don't feel like an important part of the team then I would prefer to stay at home.
"Out of respect for the club and myself I would prefer to go and experience something different where I can still enjoy myself, do something good."
Meanwhile, Pippo Inzaghi marked his 300th and final appearance for the Milan side with a goal - he was actually onside as well - as well as some words that seem to sum up the player.
To witness Pippo wheeling away in triumph following a tap-in after a team-mate has rounded 3 players and laid it on a plate for him without a word of thanks seemed to be a constant in his career. Never has a player shown so little thanks to so many – and so, over to Pippo.
“Thank you Milan, thank you football. Allow me to call you my own, the people of Via Turati, from Milanello to the offices to the phone operators to the warehouse workers, the physiotherapists, the doctors, the cooks, from the stadium to the changing room.
“All the people who saw me on Sunday with the short sleeves and shook with the hope that I would score.”
AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani spoke with sadness of the departures: “For me it is difficult to talk in these moments, they are players who have made history with Milan.
“With these players from 2003 to 2007 we were first in the UEFA Rankings.
“Replace them? It 's impossible; where you can find a new Nesta, a new Gattuso, a new Inzaghi?
Central to the many goodbyes this week has been the former Rossoneri manager, Carlo Ancelotti, with all of the players expressing their gratitude for what he has done for them and the current PSG manager was quick to acknowledge their playing legacy via Twitter:
“Ciao Alessandro, ciao Pippo, ciao Rino. I send you all thanks for what you have given to Italian football, to AC Milan, and to me especially. We had relationships based on seriousness, respect, and friendship. Embraces, from Carlo.”
But as we say goodbye to the old Serie A season, we already look forward to next season in anticipation of what new stars will emerge at Milanello or Vinovo or Trigoria or...
Serie A 2011/12 Summary
1. Juventus – CL
2. AC Milan – CL
3. Udinese – CL qualifiers
4. Lazio – Europa League
5. Napoli – Europa League
Relegated: Lecce, Novara, Cesena
While the Scudetto has been decided for this season, make sure to check in next week when I will be reporting from the Olimpico in Rome on what is sure to be a classic Finale di Coppa Italia!