In 1993, a young, talented, and pacey Italian forward joined Juventus with a ton of ambition. Coming from a much smaller team in Padova, and with only the promise of potential, Alessandro Del Piero joined Juventus with everything to prove. At the time, every Juventino’s focus was on perhaps one of the greatest Italian players ever, Roberto Baggio, “Il Divin Codino”. Baggio was not only the class of Italian football but demonstrated his magic and grace on the pitch for the world to see. However, within the span of 3 seasons, Del Piero, that unknown youngster from Padova, became the focal point of a Juve squad that won the UCL, won the UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup, finished 4th place in the Ballon d’or twice, best U-23 Player Award, was awarded the iconic number 10 shirt after only 2 seasons, and won Serie A in his 2nd season at the club. For some relevance for younger fans, that would be like a youth player coming to Barcelona and within 3 seasons replacing Messi today.
He also went on to become the icon of Juventus and the player that most fans associate with the club for not only his club records, but his passion, leadership, and dedication to the Bianconeri. For any of those still unfamiliar with just how great Del Piero was, he was given the nickname “Il Fenomeno Vero” or “The True Phenomenon” in comparison to Ronaldo in 1999. Del Piero oozed class and leadership every time he stepped onto the pitch, he redefined his game after a serious knee injury forced him to do so, and he aged like a fine wine and played at a high level until his mid-30s. He was a leader, a champion, and a loyal servant to the club for 19 years, but always demonstrated the utmost humility and respect for others. Del Piero defined what it meant to represent Juventus, and a career like his is quite possibly impossible to repeat.
Fast forward to 2021, and we could be at the early stages of another Del Piero-ish career. Having come over from a Fiorentina team that is still in the midst of a draught in terms of domestic and international success; Federico Chiesa joined a Juventus team that won 9 straight Serie A titles and a squad that includes one of the 2 biggest names in football. It is a massive amount of pressure to try to step out of the shadow of a footballing great, but Chiesa is approaching this challenge in the same way that Del Piero did in 1993. This is not to disrespect the legend of Del Piero in any way, especially since I feel many fans are way too quick to anoint the successors to footballing icons. However, in this case, there are many promising similarities that project well for Juventus and Chiesa in the future. Chiesa, who is best deployed on the left side of the attack, has a wonderful mix of pace, dribbling, shooting ability, and hunger for driving towards goal. These are all attributes of a young Del Piero who seized the world football stage with a similar unstoppable approach until his knee injury in 1998. Chiesa even scored a “Gol alla Del Piero” in the Euro Semi-Final against Spain. Del Piero also thrived at being the centerpiece of his teams, whether that be at Juve or for Italy. To not only accept that type of pressure, but to thrive with it is a trait that can’t be taught; it is reserved for special players that are born with that quality. Chiesa shared the field with Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the biggest egos and greatest players in footballing history; yet he never shied away from creating his own opportunities or taking chances for himself. Not to mention the impending return of Dybala, Chiesa has plenty of competition within the team for becoming the talisman of Juventus. However, just as Del Piero did while having to cope with the shadow cast by Roberto Baggio, Chiesa is showing the promise of becoming the new icon for Juve and for Italy.
Granted, Federico hasn’t quite developed the footballing IQ, set-piece specialty, or the leadership that Del Piero showed with consistency throughout his 19-year Juve career, but he is still young and only just finished his first season with Juventus. Additionally, this potential has not gone unnoticed. So far this summer, Juve have reportedly rejected offers of around 100 million euros from Liverpool, Chelsea, and Bayern and have stated that under no circumstances will Chiesa leave as he, (along with Dybala), is the main focal point of their project moving forward. Given that they play the same position, have similar styles, share the hunger for goals, and demonstrate rare intangibles; Federico Chiesa could finally be this generations Del Piero for Juventus.