Del Piero celebrating after scoring for Sydney FC. PHOTO: Sydneyfc.com

Former Sydney FC attacker Corey Gameiro firmly believes that Alessandro Del Piero is the best marquee player the A-League has ever seen.

There have been many great players that have graced the A-League over the years. One such player is Italian Alessandro Del Piero, coming to the shores of Australia in 2012. One player who had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with him is former Sydney forward, Corey Gameiro.

Gameiro spoke exclusively with The Inner Sanctum regarding what Del Piero brought to the league and what his initial thoughts were when the Italian signed for Sydney.

“My initial thoughts were how exciting it was for 20-year-old me. To have the opportunity to play and train alongside someone like that,” Gameiro said.

“That was my initial thought.”

Having a player of Del Piero’s calibre to play alongside and to train with is something not many can say they have done. Gameiro was left impressed by the Italian’s standards.

“On the pitch, he was extremely professional,” Gameiro said.

“Obviously coming where he has come from, he had his own standards about what was acceptable and what wasn’t.

“But he was very, very professional. He had high standards of himself. He demanded that of others around him too. Not so much vocally but the way he portrayed himself, what he contributed on the ball. He wanted and expected that at best he could at our [A-League] level.”

When the news broke that Sydney FC has secured the signature of Del Piero, the Australian football public was sent into a frenzy. It was seen as a huge win for football in Australia, a sentiment that is echoed by Gameiro.

“At the time it was massive,” Gameiro said.

“Now looking back on it, even for myself you know. Now that I am older and to really realise and comprehend that we had someone like him to come to our country and play in our national league. It is really quite astonishing you know.

“We look back at some of the marquees that have come through here in Australia, back when [Emile] Heskey, you know Robbie Fowler, even William Gallas played in the Premier League.

“Guys like that who came out, you know Del Piero obviously was one of the biggest names back then in world football. Everybody knew, in the football world, everybody knew who Del Piero was.

“Now where we are, the level that is coming out here, now that is no disrespect to the guys coming out here, that have had a lot better careers than I have had. Still it doesn’t really match up to how fortunate we were now to get Del Piero.

“I think now, the players we have, the foreigners and if you want to use the word marquee because in my opinion there hasn’t been any apart from [Diego] Castro, there hasn’t been any real quality coming out and even with Castro, he is not a name like Del Piero that’s for sure.”

With all the fanfare of Del Piero’s arrival, he was expected to deliver for Sydney FC. For Gameiro, playing alongside such an icon of the game was something special.

“It was amazing because everybody knew that if we could get the ball to Ale [Del Piero] in a good place, in a good pocket, he could hurt teams and we all knew that,” Gameiro said.

“We saw him do it in training every day, we obviously knew what he was like before he even joined us [Sydney FC], we knew what he could do.

“We knew that if we could get him the ball in the right areas, he is going to hurt teams and he is going to help us you know.

“A lot of our gameplan was built around him. Obviously playing in a summer comp we knew, defensively, maybe he wasn’t going to be able to contribute as much as others could. But we knew offensively, if we could get him the ball in those areas, he can hurt teams.”

The signing of Del Piero did not result in an A-League championship for Sydney FC. However Gameiro believes the Italian’s three-year stint in Australia was successful. Not only for the league but for fans of other teams as well.

“Oh, hugely successful because like I mentioned earlier, everybody who knows football, knows Del Piero,” Gameiro said.

“It is like anyone talking about football doesn’t know a [Zinedine] Zidane and guys like that, so if you are a football fan, you know who he is.

“It is just amazing; I think we took it for granted a little bit.

“Because now where we are if you looked back 10 years ago when we had him here and said well in 10 years time, imagine who we could get. That is how we all would have been thinking.

“To be where we are now and not being able to attract bigger names. I think in China, the influx of money over there was a massive, massive problem for us here in Australia.

“Because players are literally earning 20 to 50 times more than what we could offer here in Australia.

“That was a big, big impact and I think now, reflecting on it, it is amazing that we were fortunate to have not just the Italian community behind him. Because he had a massive pull on that, just football fans in general.

“If you were a football fan of Wellington or whoever it might be, Brisbane Roar and you are playing against Sydney FC, you knew that you are going to be able to watch Del Piero play too.

“So, you are going to make the effort to go and watch the game. Whereas nowadays, you cannot say that anymore about any player that is playing in the league.

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The A-League has seen plenty of marquee players grace the competition. The likes of Shinji Ono, Diego Castro, Thomas Broich, Tim Cahill, and Milos Ninkovic have all played their part in Australian football.

However, for Gameiro, the Italian who arrived in 2012 holds top spot for the best marquee the league has seen.

“Oh, I think he has been the best marquee,” Gameiro said.

“Maybe you might not say performance-wise, in terms of goals and stats and everything like that. But his contribution to Australian football in the short amount of time that he spent here was amazing.

“Because we know that he would have had a lot of offers. We would all be naive and stupid to think that it wasn’t the most lucrative here in Australia.

“So, we know for a fact that he chose Australia because of the lifestyle. Because he wanted to come out here and help football.

“That is a credit to him. I was number nine and he was number 10. So, he used to come into our changing room, very humble. For everything that he had achieved, he was super down to earth. He would say hello to all the boys.

“There was always this misconception that he had his own changing room. That rumor floated around for years, which was a lie.

“He had his own room where he had some workout gear and some pre-activation stuff that he would disappear into, and he was a professional.

“He was in there getting stuff done, getting prepared for training, working on his body.

“So, he wasn’t in there getting dressed by himself and excluding himself from the team by any means, no.

“He would come and pop in, get dressed, say hello. Then crack on with what his routine was which he has probably done his whole life or what he needed to do to prepare for training.

“He was a very, very softly, quiet-spoken guy and he was a leader more by action than vocally. Similar to a Mile Jedinak in leadership you know. I don’t need to say much, just follow me by my example, I will lead us by the way by what I got to do.”

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