Del Piero Re-Ups With Sydney FC
By Ed Wyatt
They’re popping champagne and breathing a sigh of relief at Sydney FC after the news that superstar Alessandro Del Piero is set to sign on for another year. Del Piero has agreed in principle to an extension of his original one-year deal, which pays him $2 million per annum.
The former Juventus man has been a star on and off the pitch, scoring 11 goals in 18 matches for the Sky Blues, while boosting attendances and television ratings, and helping to lift the overall profile of the A-League in the crowded Australian sporting marketplace.
There had been some whispers that Del Piero might be headed to Brazil or the Middle East, but on his website he announced “Now it’s official, I have renewed my contract with Sydney FC for one more year. That’s what I wanted, and that’s what the club wanted. My choice, our choice.”
It’s more good news for the so-called “glamour club” which is trying to recover after a terrible start to the season. Head coach Ian Crook – the former Norwich star – resigned in November and new boss Frank Farina has the club slowly climbing up the ladder. Farina, the ex-Socceroos coach just signed a two-year deal this week.
And to bolster the defense, the Sky Blues won the Lucas Neill lottery, beating Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar for the services of the national team captain and former Blackburn Rovers and West Ham defender. Neill has joined as a “guest player,” which means he can play up to ten matches.
Six Pack From Down Under
1 Del Piero’s popularity will be on display in Melbourne Friday at a formal dinner in the Crown Casino. “A Night With Alessandro Del Piero” will set you back $330 and is expected to draw – get this – more than 600 devotees. Del Piero and Sydney FC are in town to play Melbourne Heart.
2 Speaking of Heart, Lucas Neill’s signing with Sydney FC caught the Melbourne club by surprise. Heart CEO Scott Munn even went on local radio claiming that that his club had been “played a little bit” by Neill. Oddly, Neill apologised for leaving Heart in the lurch, but I doubt that will temper the frosty reception he’s sure to receive from the red-clad fans at AAMI Park.
3 Other than Del Piero, the best story of the season has taken place in Sydney’s western suburbs, where debutante club Western Sydney Wanderers are in second place and looking for their seventh win in a row. Former Crystal Palace player and assistant coach Tony Popovich – who many see as a future Socceroos boss – has built a strong squad led by marquee player Shinji Ono.
4 Brisbane Roar officials have defended their confiscation of a sign at Suncorp Stadium last weekend. With the Roar struggling through a poor season, some fans showed their displeasure by holding up a sign saying “Mulvey Out” as a protest against just-appointed head coach Mike Mulvey. Brisbane General Manager Sean Dobson said the banner was removed not because of its content, but because it hadn’t been submitted for approval before the match, as is required by the club.
5 One of the most talked about players this season has been Melbourne Victory winger Marco Rojas, a 21-year old from New Zealand. Rumours had him moving during the January transfer window – Liverpool and Juventus were reportedly interested – but Rojas told Victory he wanted to finish the season in Melbourne. Now reports say scouts from AZ Alkmaar, Red Bull Salzburg and Dusseldorf are flying in to watch Rojas against Central Coast on Saturday night.
6 David Gallop, the new CEO of the Football Federation of Australia (FFA), took part in a series of Fan Forums around the country to get up close and personal with A-League fans. Among the more volatile issues being discussed is the perceived anti-football bias of some in the media who choose to sensationalise the occasional mild hooliganism at matches.
Round 22 Fixtures
Newcastle Jets v Brisbane Roar
Western Sydney Wanderers v Perth Glory
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory
Wellington Phoenix v Adelaide United
Melbourne Heart v Sydney FC