Italy and Juventus great Alessandro del Piero will arrive in Australia earlier than expected tomorrow to begin his two years with Sydney in the A-League, the club said yesterday.
The 37-year-old striker signed the most lucrative deal in Australian sports last week, worth about A$2 million (US$2.09 million) a year, to play for the twice A-League champions.
Club and league officials are expecting Del Piero’s time in Australia to transform the profile of the sport, which trails Australian rules football, rugby league and rugby union in popularity in the country’s crowded sports market.
“It’s exciting that we have an arrival date for Alessandro,” Sydney chief executive Tony Pignata said in a press release. “He is eager to get here and start working with the team. There has been a lot of excitement surrounding his signature and we can now look forward to him joining the rest of the squad.”
The club has moved their second home match of the season, against Perth Glory on Oct. 28, from the Sydney Football Ground to the city’s 84,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in anticipation of a bumper crowd.
The match will be the first A-League game played at the stadium, although Sydney attracted 80,000 to the arena for a friendly against David Beckham’s Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 and 40,000 to a match against an Everton side that featured Tim Cahill in 2010.
As a measure of how much interest the club expects Del Piero to generate, the corresponding fixture against Perth Glory last season attracted a crowd of 5,505 to Campbelltown Stadium in the western suburbs of Sydney.
Sydney, who finished fifth in the league last season and were knocked out in the first round of playoffs, begin the eighth season of the A-League with a match against Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand on Oct. 6.