The Alessandro Del Piero-to-the-Galaxy rumors have been around for some time -- the Italian legend mentioned it himself a year ago -- but now there's a report that a deal is done and he'll be arriving once the summer transfer window opens June 27.
Montreal-based website Soccer Plus cited “sources close to negotiations” in reporting Thursday that Del Piero, a 37-year-old striker leaving Juventus after 19 years, will join L.A. and finish his career in the United States.
The Galaxy, which does not comment on potential acquisitions, has all three of its Designated Player spots filled -- by David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane -- so Del Piero's arrival would require that one of them departs or that his salary comes in below the DP figure of $350,000, whether through contractual mechanisms or if paid down by allocation money. L.A. would have to discard at least one player to open a roster spot and free up cap space.
Del Piero is a beloved and universally respected figure in the Italian game -- he scored a club-record 289 goals in 704 games for Turin-based Juventus and played 91 times for Italy's national team, scoring 27 goals and winning the 2006 World Cup, in which he netted the second overtime goal to beat Germany in the semifinals -- and he's made no secret of his desire to play in America.
He told Sky Sport 24 in May 2011 that he might join the Galaxy when his Juve contract ran out this year.
“It could be a possibility,” Del Piero said. “It's a country I love so much, and I could also take the opportunity to go see the Lakers.”
The rumors resurfaced last winter in Montreal, with Impact sporting director Nick De Santos revealing that the MLS expansion team had been in touch with Del Piero but that the forward's attention “is turned toward New York or Los Angeles.” Impact owner Joey Saputo confirmed that in January, telling his team's website in January that talks had broken off with Del Piero's representatives because “we were advised by his group in August 2011 that Alessandro would rather focus on New York or Los Angeles.”
Del Piero made an emotional farewell Sunday at Juventus, which went undefeated to win the Serie A title this season, scoring a goal in a season-closing victory over Atalanta. If his age is worrisome -- Beckham turned 37 about two weeks ago -- his form isn't (he demonstrated this season he can still play at the top of Serie A, although his production declined) and neither is his character.
Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti, a former Juventus coach, called Del Piero “invaluable” in his 2010 autobiography.
“Ale, to use his nickname, is a born leader, and you can never overlook him. ... From a professional point of view, he has always been serious and determined. In human terms, he is a rare and priceless individual. In terms of technique, he's a thoroughbred. He has an essence that is hard to pin down, difficult to define in its beauty.”
Del Piero is one of three big-name Italian players reportedly bound for MLS this summer. Soccer Plus reported last week that Alessandro Nesta, who is departing AC Milan, had reached an agreement to join the New York Red Bulls, and the Montreal Impact have confirmed an 18-month offer to Bologna forward Marco Di Vaio. Italian defender Gianluca Zambrotta also has had conversations with the league, according to reports.
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