by Adam Digby

I feel in my thirties I can say this, knowing whole-heartedly that I will feel no greater affection or appreciation for any other player, past or present.

I have seen better footballers, such as Maradona, who’s skills were truly breathtaking. I have seen better goalscorers, Marco Van Basten, even the eternally frustrating Fillipo Inzaghi.

My appreciation of Del Piero transcends sport. I admire him greatly as a player, believing him to be both more effective and more consistent than many of his peers such as Zidane and Totti.

I also admire him as a man, his dignity, loyalty and professionalism are sadly lacking in most current players. His contributions have changed, ranging from being “the man” in the years 1996 to 1998, to being only a squad player by 2005 under Fabio Capello. However there are two actions that stand out from the many in his glorious career.

Firstly is his role at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Ale accepted his role as a substitute with a wonderful sense of professionalism and a firmly held belief that his chance would come.

This was typified by two incidents. Francesco Totti’s winning penalty, late in the second round match against Australia is the first.

Ale ran fully 50 yards to be the first player to celebrate with the scorer: the very player in his starting slot, and beloved No. 10 shirt.

The other was the semi final match versus the hosts, Germany. Upon being told yet again he would not be starting, he responded in the greatest possible manner.

After being thrown on for the central midfielder Perrotta, he covered the defensive role perfectly, then in an Azzurri counter attack, ran the length of the pitch to hit a first time curler into the top corner. Two nil Italy, game over.

Lastly is the example he set as captain during the Calciopoli scandal later that same summer, never once complaining at all he had lost, never bemoaning former team mates for abandoning la vecchia signora at her most vulnerable moment.

When other high-profile players demanded transfers, Ale remained silent. At just the right time, when Juventini across the globe despaired at the demise of our illustrious club, up stepped our captain.

He pledged his undying loyalty to the club, and its tifosi. He told stories of his first bianconeri shirt as a child and of the sense of belonging it gave him. Here was possibly our greatest hero, a World Cup & Champions League winner, talking as one of us, a fan.

For these selfless acts, for these two instances of loyalty, love and devotion, I can say this man, this player is, as Muhammed Ali would have it, “The Greatest of All Times.”

You can read more of Adam’s thoughts on Juventus on his excellent blog Il Tifosi, and follow him on Twitter @Adz77.