ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO hasn’t even arrived in Australia yet but the new Sydney FC signing could be in line to take on the captain’s armband this season.
Incumbent skipper Terry McFlynn has been in the role for two seasons but will happily step aside if Del Piero wants to take the job.
One of the nicknames bestowed on the Italian star during his 19-year stint with Serie A giants Juventus was Il Capitano – the Captain. The 37-year-old was skipper for more than a decade in Turin and was given the honour of captaining the side in his final match at the club, a 3-1 win over Atalanta.
Del Piero’s leadership qualities are not in question regardless of his official title and McFlynn said he would completely understand if coach Ian Crook put the Italian in charge.
“My main focus is this football club being successful,” McFlynn said at training yesterday. ”Always has been, always will be.
”If the manager decides he wants Del Piero to lead the team then I will support the club, the manager and Del Piero 100 per cent. For me, irrespective of who the captain is, Sydney’s success is the most important thing.”
The public excitement at signing Del Piero has been mirrored by the players, with McFlynn revealing the squad’s delight when the signing was officially announced on Wednesday night.
“Like everyone, we sat waiting and watching the press conference from Italy – there were phone calls and text messages and Facebook chats and Twitter messages going back and forth between the boys,” he said. “I think there’s a competition at the minute to see who can have him around for the first barbecue.”
And it’s not just the captaincy that Del Piero could claim. Set-piece duties around goal were the domain of Brett Emerton last season, but the Italian will likely preside over them for the upcoming season.
“I don’t think he’s a contender, I think he will take it off me,” Emerton said. “As long the person who takes them finds the net the most [he] can have it.”
Emerton played for Dutch club Feyenoord against Del Piero’s Juventus in the European Champions League and knows first hand how damaging he can be.
“He’s up there with the best,” Emerton said. ”He’s achieved everything in world football – he’s won the World Cup, Champions League titles and he’s just an exceptional footballer. He’s a footballer you admire for his achievements and his outstanding ability.
‘To have him come to the club and be able to train with him is something I’ll look forward to and I’m sure a lot of the young boys, and even myself, are going to learn from him.”
Emerton, who took several matches to adapt to the A-League last season, said it was important people understood Del Piero might not be instantly successful.
“Hopefully he hits the ground running, but if he doesn’t people need to understand that and give him a little bit of time to adapt to the league,” he said. “You can’t underestimate this league. If you come here and were not committed 100 per cent, and don’t give each and every game your best, you’re going to get found out.
”Weather conditions can be testing as well. It’s hot, pitches are quite hard and training on hard pitches day in, day out can take a toll on your body when you’re not used to it.There’s a lot of things to adjust to but he’s a seasoned professional and I’m sure he’ll be OK.”
McFlynn’s role in the starting side is likely to come under threat this season as new coach Crook looks to juggle what is looking an increasingly strong squad.
Del Piero’s arrival, at least positionally, fills the gap left by the recently departed Nicky Carle, but the arrival of new talents like Yairo Yau and Krunoslav Lovrek, plus the expected improvement of highly thought of youngsters Joel Chianese and Terry Antonis, will create serious competition for places.
However, the Ulsterman believes this will only drive the team forward.
“At the end of the day, the stronger the squad, the greater the chance we have of winning the competition,” McFlynn said. “History has shown that when we have strong squads in depth, we’ve gone on to be successful. It’s looking stronger and stronger with each week.”
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