Sydney FC CEO Tony Pignata says Alessandro Del Piero’s only responsibility is to play for the Sky Blues, and opposition fans shouldn’t expect to see the superstar in action.
Sydney FC CEO Tony Pignata says Alessandro Del Piero-s only responsibility in Australia is to play football for the Sky Blues, and opposition fans shouldn-t expect to see the superstar in action.
Interest in the former Italy great has seen Hyundai A-League attendances and TV audiences skyrocket in the opening weeks but some fans have been left disgruntled when games have been marketed to them on the back of Del Piero-s playing against their team, only for the Italian not to make it on the field.
Central Coast Mariners fans were left disappointed when Del Piero failed a late fitness test for Sydney-s game in Gosford in Round 5 - despite their team eventually running out 7-2 winners.
But Pignata said whatever the expectations, the club won-t play their marquee man for anything other than football reasons.
“There-s no doubt people all over Australia want to watch him play,” Pignata told footballaustralia.com.au.
“You saw when we played in Brisbane last weekend when instead of the usual 12,000 they got 23,000, so he does put bums on seats.
“But unfortunately, for example the game against Central Coast, I know a lot of tickets were sold on the back of him attending but he didn-t pass the fitness test the morning of the game so we had to pull him out.
“It-s not about rolling him out willy-nilly it-s about making sure he-s fit and can play. And if he can, that-s fantastic. There-s no responsibility on our part to make sure he plays in any game, whether it-s home or away - he-ll play when he-s fit.”
Perhaps the way Del Piero has embraced his role as a figurehead for the A-League and so often takes the time to meet and greet fans has left some with the view that he is a commodity for the competition as a whole.
Pignata said the star-s willingness to give up his time for fans was impressive but admitted the club cannot respond to all requests they now receive, and that the focus must remain on his delivering on the pitch for Sydney FC.
“He-s fantastic; you saw when we presented the strip at Allianz Stadium, he spent nearly an hour and a half signing autographs and photos - he does it all off the cuff like that, he-s got no issues with it.
“At training we get fans and he-ll spend 20 minutes taking photos and signing shirts. Last week in Brisbane before we got on the bus all the ball kids wanted their photos taken with him and even after the loss he was happy to do it. He-s a fantastic character.
“The amount of requests the club have had it-s amazing and we can-t attend to all of them. You-ve got to understand his responsibility is to play football and all the other stuff will be get done if it can be done. But it-s a long, long list of people wanting him here there and everywhere.
“He-s put us on the map globally, record crowds, highest memberships, merchandise, hospitality - but the most important box he-s ticked is performance on the field. You can-t deny what a super footballer he is.
“First and foremost he was signed as a player for Sydney FC.
“Yes, he-s been fantastic for the league, we-ve had record crowds, record TV audiences - but he-s here to play football for Sydney FC.”