BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — A vacancy at Sydney FC may have given former Juventus striker Alessandro Del Piero another career option in the A-League.
Del Piero, who turns 40 in November, has yet to sign a new playing contract for next season after two years as the highest profile marquee signing ever in the Australian domestic competition.
But the firing Wednesday of Frank Farina — the team's seventh coach in nine seasons — has triggered hype in the Australian media that the 2006 World Cup winner might move into a coaching role next season.
The A-League certainly needs Del Piero to stick around. Despite playing with sore hamstrings for a good part of this season, Del Piero scored 10 goals after scoring 14 in his inaugural season of 2012-13.
When he was signed in September 2012, season ticket sales at Sydney FC surged by several thousand overnight. And in his first season in the league, attendance increased by more than 100,000 and numbers were up by a similar amount this season.
Del Piero couldn't get Sydney into the playoffs during his first season, but the Sky Blues made it among the top six this year, losing 2-1 to Melbourne Victory in the first playoff round last weekend and ultimately ending Farina's reign as coach.
The front-runner for the vacant manager's job is Graham Arnold, who recently left Japanese club Vegalta Sendai. Another contender mentioned is former Dutch player and coach Han Berger, who will step down from his role as technical director at Football Federation Australia in June.
But Sydney and the league can't get past Del Piero for sheer star power.
"Also lingering is the omnipresent figure of marquee player Alessandro Del Piero, and with the Italian's desire to enter management growing each year, many believe he could make a seamless transition to the dugout," the Sydney Morning Herald said Thursday.
The Australian newspaper says although Del Piero does not have all the required coaching certificates, "it is hard to see FFA not giving him special dispensation to do the job at Sydney ... there are doubts whether his body and legs will stand up to another season."
Working in Del Piero's favor is that Sydney has won the A-League title twice, each time with foreign coaches — German Pierre Littbarski in the inaugural A-League season in 2005-06 and Czech native Vitezslav Lavicka in 2009-2010.
One person who thinks Del Piero should wait is a former teammate at Juventus, ex-Dutch international Edgar Davids.
"I know him very well, but I think Alessandro Del Piero knows himself the best, better than everyone else, so only he can answer the question if he needs to stop or needs to play. It's his own decision," Davids said recently on Sydney FC's website.
"But I think Ale can be a great asset for a team in a director (of coaching) position or whatever, but doing that, you need to first get some experience. You can't stop (playing) one day and be a director the other day."