“Next season the No 10 shirt at Juventus will likely be free and it is a number that I like,” claimed Parma forward Sebastian Giovinco recently. The starlet, currently co-owned with the Old Lady, further admitted he enjoys the idea of replacing Alessandro Del Piero in Turin. That may be a dream for him, but it should be a nightmare for the rest of us.
The Juventus No 10 is not just a shirt. After personally watching the great and the good of Liam Brady, Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio and, arguably the most celebrated of them all, Pinturicchio himself in that skin, the jersey should be retired when he leaves this summer.
Taking a shirt out of circulation as a dedication to a club legend is nothing new in Italy. Napoli retired Diego Maradona’s magic 10 as did Milan with Paolo Maldini's No 3 and Franco Baresi's No 6, while Inter withdrew Giacinto Facchetti's famous No 3.
Yet it is not a Juve tradition. In 2005 there were strenuous calls for Gaetano Scirea’s No 6 jersey to be retired, but despite the demand being backed by former Azzurri Coach Enzo Bearzot, who not only wanted his domestic shirt retired but his international version as well, they were ignored. The 1982 World Cup winning boss rightly felt that the retiring of glorious shirt numbers should be a ritual so they have the right not to be worn by others.
Like Del Piero, Scirea was an unrivalled champion both on and off the field who sadly died while working for Juve as a scout in 1989. In recent history his shirt has been worn by players like Dimas Teixeira, Sunday Oliseh, Thierry Henry, Fabian O’Neill, Robert Kovac, Salvatore Fresi and the calamitous Fabio Grosso, who were, putting it bluntly, not fit to lace his boots.
If the above are not perfect examples of players unable to live up to a previous owner's shirt number, I don't know what is. It was too big a weight on their puny shoulders and it would surely have been better to keep the jersey locked away to protect the phenomenal institution that is Il Capitano’s legacy.
Many modern day fans feel the same way about Del Piero. Like Scirea his boots will undoubtedly be extremely difficult to fill, even impossible, and consequently if not retired there will be some who will sully the memory of this fabulous shirt and what Alex has achieved in it.
If they can't retire it, then at the very least they should take it out of circulation for a few years until there is somebody who could do the shirt the same justice as previous owners. And despite Giovinco's progress this season, he is hardly the chimerical visionary that Del Piero was at his age.
Of course some could feel that it is only a shirt and no-one is bigger than the club. They may also suggest that if a player dreams about becoming the new Del Piero, let him and give him a chance of actually realising it.
The problem, however, are that the skills, elegance, leadership and dedication that Del Piero brought to the shirt are not so easily repeated and any future owner needs to earn the right and not just be given it.
Alessandro set a massively high standard for that shirt. It is not any old number, it is a number worn by real legends, historical great players who made the difference. The only player who deserves it more than Alessandro is Del Piero himself – in eternity.
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