This feature is part of Duology
The calm before the storm came at the San Siro with 27 minutes on the clock and the game scoreless. Alessandro Del Piero found himself faced with Gennaro Gattuso, the Milan enforcer looking to keep him as far away from goal as possible. Del Piero weaved inside and out, waiting for the opportune moment to arrive, then jinked onto his left foot and aimed a cross towards David Trezeguet.
Gattuso lunged desperately as the attempted pass slammed into his leg and the ball was sent spinning into the air. Quick as a flash, Del Piero swivelled his body and arched an overhead kick into the penalty area where Trezeguet had wriggled into space having timed his run to perfection. The Frenchman leapt in front of Dida in the Rossoneri goal and headed the ball in off the post. Trezeguet immediately ran towards his strike partner in celebration and slid onto his knees. Del Piero enveloped him as it dawned on the Bianconeri tifosi: the title was on its way back to Turin.
That Scudetto was stripped from Juventus a year later as the true scale of Calciopoli rocked Italian football to the core. A golden era of Italian football was over, Juve found themselves relegated to Serie B as part of the FIGC’s punishment and an expected fire sale began. When the dust settled, five key players remained in black and white stripes. The ultras of the Curva Scirea knew them as the Five Samurai; Pavel Nedvěd, Gianluigi Buffon, Mauro Camoranesi, Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet. All stayed, determined to help restore the Bianconeri to their former glory.
Relief came for Del Piero when coach Fabio Capello left his post at Juventus in favour of a return to Real Madrid; the future England manager had kept the fans’ favourite on the bench an unthinkable 26 times the season before. Reinstated, able to rekindle his partnership with Trezeguet, the duo would ensure the Turin side’s stay in Serie B was a short one with an immediate return to the top table of Italian football.
Trezeguet’s initial introduction to Italian football had been a far from subtle one. His golden goal in extra time of the Euro 2000 final in Rotterdam sealed a successful two years for Les Bleus as they added the European title to the World Cup crown from 1998. His left-footed drive from the edge of the area prevented Italy from winning their first European Championship since 1968 yet Trezegol, as he was affectionately named, had already sealed a move to Turin before the tournament began and came to leave a lasting impression on Italian football long before setting foot in the country.
David Trezeguet was born in Rouen, France, but was raised in Buenos Aires. His father Jorge was born in Argentina and plied his trade as a defender for several clubs found in the Argentine capital. Trezeguet Sr. was banned in 1974 for failing a drug test and, although he was subsequently pardoned, his career never recovered. Fortunately for David, his father’s links to the football world still open doors for him and would aide him in signing for Club Atlético Platense when he was only eight years old.
Even from an early age, Trezeguet’s ability to strike the ball well with both feet was duly-noted but it wasn’t until returning to his native France in 1995, with a transfer to Monaco and a subsequent link-up with compatriot Thierry Henry, that his true qualities came to the fore.
Carlo Ancelotti later parted with £20m to bring Trezeguet to the Stadio delle Alpi where he followed in the footsteps of French legends Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane to don the black and white stripes of La Vecchia Signora. All did not go to plan at the beginning, however, as his new coach favoured the partnership of Filippo Inzaghi and Del Piero, resigning Trezeguet to a spot on the bench.
Despite his bit part play, the Frenchman seized his chances when they came and still managed to score 15 goals in his debut season. As Ancelotti departed to Milan, his replacement, Marcello Lippi, recognised the importance of Trezeguet to the side. Inzaghi was eased out, Trezegol moved in, and one of the greatest Serie A strike partnerships was born.
Del Piero’s story could so easily have been wildly different. Born in the small town of Conegliano, in northern Italy, his mother Bruna was very protective of her youngest son. His older brother Stefano played briefly for Sampdoria and saw similar promise in his younger sibling.
Alessandro could be found kicking a ball around the garage of their San Vendemiano home any time electrician father Gino was stationed in there, hard at work. Still, the vigilant Bruna had other ideas though and tried to steer the young Alessandro towards goalkeeping to help him avoid injury. Stefano saw much more in him, though, and convinced their mother to allow Alessandro to play further up the pitch. Her leniency didn’t stretch to letting the young Ale join the Torino academy as it was deemed to be too far from home.
Her reservations wouldn’t ensure, however, as scout Piero Aggradi recommended the youngster to Padova coach Adriano Buffoni, who cut the apron strings when he signed the 14-year-old and took him 77 kilometres away to play in the Veneto region of Italy. The move did Del Piero wonders – he matured overnight – and by the age of 18 had made his debut for the Serie B side against Messina.
Despite a slow start to his career with Padova where he scored only one goal in his first full season, Juventus came calling. President and La Vecchia Signora legend Giampiero Boniperti sealed the deal by wowing the 18-year-old with a tour of the stadium and trophy room. And so began a 19-year love affair with the Turin side that would see the man nicknamed Pinturicchio – after Renaissance artist Bernardino di Betto by Juve owner Gianni Agnelli – score 188 top-flight goals.
Del Piero had no shortage of star quality alongside him for Juventus, from Gianluca Vialli, to Inzaghi. Success came to Del Piero easy and often in his early years with Juventus; three Scudetti, one Coppa Italia and a Champions League winners medal all falling in his lap within his first five seasons with the club. Frustration came in two Champions League final defeats, however, and his partnership with Inzaghi floundered, Del Piero going an astounding 70 weeks without scoring a goal from open play.
The steady progression of Trezegol saw Inzaghi made a surplus to requirements. Trezeguet arrived in Italy much as he did in France, unable to speak the language, so instead let his football do the talking. The 2001/02 season was his best in the black and white, hitting a brace in the opening game of the season and a perfect hat-trick against Brescia. Trezeguet’s ability to score just as easily with either foot or his head was a rare commodity yet not one that the Bianconeri fans fully appreciated. Murmurings of discontent came from the Curva Scirea as the fans questioned whether Trezeguet’s role was hindering the team’s style of play, sensing a more pragmatic approach when he was in the side.
It proved to be a landmark season for Del Piero as well as he hit his 100th goal for Juventus as the Scudetto came down to a three-way fight on the final day. Inter were top and led second-placed Juventus by six points heading into the home straight of the season. By the time the final round of games came up, the lead had been cut to one, with Roma in third a further point ahead.
All three prospective champions were away from home, Juve stuck to their part of the bargain when they raced into a two-goal lead early on at Udinese with goals from Trezeguet and Del Piero. They looked like narrowly missing out on the Scudetto for a third consecutive season, though, when Christian Vieri put the Nerazzurri ahead before Lazio fought back, both sides going into the break level at 2-2.
With Juve cruising and Roma scoreless with Torino, the Scudetto was heading to Turin, and when Inter capitulated in the second half, conceding two more goals, they sank to third and the title race was over. Trezeguet ended the season by collecting both Serie A Footballer and Foreign Footballer of the Year awards, his all-round scoring perfectly complimented by Del Piero’s vision and guile. The only minor disappointment, the unexpected form of Dario Hübner at Piacenza, meant he shared the Capocannoniere for the Serie A top scorer as both strikers plundered 24 goals.
Injury struck the next season when Trezeguet suffered from a recurring knee injury, although his four goals in the Champions League set up an all-Italian final with AC Milan. Included in these was a vital away goal against Real Madrid in the semi-final at the Bernabéu, prodding home after Iker Casillas saved from Del Piero. The final saw more heartache for the Bianconeri, though, when Trezeguet missed the opening penalty in the shootout that followed an entertaining 0-0 draw; his weak effort placed straight at Dida in the Milan goal. Juve would surrender their Champions League challenge at the final hurdle.
In spite of this setback, the duo’s partnership continued to flourish. Trezeguet extended his contract while Del Piero was further ensconced in the Bianconeri hearts when he came off the bench to score a delightful chip in a Coppa Italia game against Bari only four days after his father’s funeral. Even the relegation after the fallout of the Calciopoli scandal couldn’t tear them apart; the return to Serie A in 2008 invigorated the pairing further with both challenging for the Capocannoniere.
In perhaps the best example of the relationship between the two, they headed into the final league game both level on 19 goals. Inter had taken the title and Juve sat comfortably in third – all that was to be decided was who would take the prestigious award for the league’s top scorer. With only six minutes gone against Sampdoria, Del Piero handed his side the lead, which put him ahead of his strike partner in the goalscoring charts.
The race looked over shortly after when Del Piero was brought down for a penalty. The designated taker picked himself up and in an act of generosity gave the ball to Trezeguet, who coolly converted to put them level again. Perhaps fittingly, Del Piero went on to score again and won his first Capocannoniere with 21 goals in 37 games.
In total, their partnership at Juventus lasted 10 magnificent years and brought much silverware to the Turin club, albeit with the constant caveat of heartache in Europe. They overtook Omar Sívori and John Charles’ goal record in a season, with their joint 41 goals in 2008, and emphatically ensured they would go down as one of the most potent strike duos world football has ever seen.
By Matthew Evans @Matt_The_Met
Edited by Will Sharp @shillwarp