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Feb 21, 2013

Del Piero to dazzle for another season

Upon touching down in Sydney over five months ago, Italian ace Alessandro Del Piero declared: "I am not here for the end of my career. I am here for the start of a new career".

With Thursday's announcement, that Del Piero would play the 2013/14 A-League season with Sydney FC, the 38-year-old proved his Australian adventure is no sabbatical.

Del Piero had been in talks with Sydney FC for months and attracted interest from foreign clubs before a deal was finalised late on Wednesday.

Both parties agreed to activate the second year of his $2 million-a-season contract, with Del Piero saying he never gave any serious thought to leaving the Sky Blues.

Now it's just a question of how long the Italian maestro conducts play before taking his final bow.

"With my age, I want to be very honest with me and all of the squad. We have to see year by year," Del Piero said.

"I understand if it's not possible, then I'm going to pass ... but if we think we can do it, also for next year (2014/15 season), then there will be a new story."

Del Piero has enjoyed a spectacular first season in the A-League, scoring 11 goals in 18 matches - the highest-ever goal haul by a Sydney FC player in a single season.

Aside from his dazzling skills, the former Juventus striker has been a smash hit off the park, helping generate greatly-increased media interest, crowds, television ratings and merchandise sales.

"He has raised the profile of not only Sydney FC, but the A-League as a whole," Sydney FC chairman Scott Barlow said.

"It's incredible to think every week there are football fans across Italy tuning in to watch Sydney FC play live."

After a horrible start to their current campaign, the Sky Blues have risen to fifth under coach Frank Farina.

Del Piero nominated the side's turnaround, his family's happiness, and the vision of Farina and Barlow as crucial factors in his decision to remain in Australia.

"It was a big challenge for me and my family to come here, I changed everything in our life," he said.

"We had to check things over here (hence the delay in committing to a second season).

"(My family is happy and) now my son speaks English better than me."

Ultimately, Del Piero won't be content until Sydney FC bank some silverware.

"It's a challenge and I want to win the championship," the six-time Serie A winner said.

"That's why I came here.

"Everyone wants improvement next year. Everyone wants to do better and better every week and that's what I feel when I talk with Scott and all the board and the boss.

"That's why I'm very happy to stay here."

With Lucas Neill, Joel Griffiths and Brett Emerton now on Sydney FC's books, the club will be better placed to fulfil Del Piero's desire.

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