Central Coast weigh up bid to lure Del Piero

SEBASTIAN HASSETT
Last updated 08:26 19/12/2012
David Beckham and Alessandro Del Piero
Getty Images

TWO SUPERSTARS: David Beckham and Alessandro Del Piero have teamed up before, in a charity match in 2005, but could they do it again, for the Central Coast Mariners in 2013?

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Alessandro Del Piero and David Beckham pairing up on the Central Coast to take on the best of Asia? It's ambitious, but that is the dream of Central Coast Mariners owner Peter Turnbull.

Having seen the interest generated by Del Piero on his arrival at Sydney FC, and with Beckham's appeal unmatched in the world game, the Mariners are considering a bid to sign the duo for their Asian Champions League campaign.

If Turnbull is successful in his quest, Beckham would join the Mariners for the second half of the A-League season and stay on for the ACL campaign, while Del Piero would see out the year at Sydney FC before switching to the Mariners.

However, given the ACL group stages begin on February 27 for the Mariners, at home against Korean side Suwon Bluewings, if Del Piero did join, he wouldn't see any continental football until the knockout stages later in the year. That is, of course, unless Sydney released Del Piero early to join the Mariners - a highly unlikely proposition.

The Mariners were one of the first A-League clubs to express their interest in Beckham and are still waiting on a final response from his management to gauge the English superstar's interest in coming to Australia.

But as Sydney FC stall on offering Del Piero a second year, the Mariners see an opportunity to lure the A-League's biggest name to Bluetongue Stadium.

While the possibilities of seeing both on the Central Coast at the same or even various times may seem a dream from afar, Turnbull told Fairfax Media yesterday he's sizing up the possibility.

''You could say that we're definitely interested in speaking to Alessandro's management team because we can see the upside, especially in relation to his profile in Asia,'' Turnbull said. ''The leverage of having a player such as Alessandro would be massive in countries such as Korea, China and Japan. It's interesting and something we're looking into. We can definitely see some commercial benefits having a player of his stature.

''But imagine them playing together. Now that would something.''

After initially announcing they had agreed terms on a two-year contract, it has been revealed Sydney's deal with Del Piero is for one season with an option of a second at $2 million per season.

However, despite Del Piero being an instant success with the Sky Blues, scoring five goals in nine games, the club is stalling on offering him a contract extension.

Turnbull said there should be no doubt Del Piero was deserving of another deal beyond this season based on what he had produced so far.

''His class is absolutely unquestionable. You can see every week how much of a world-class player he is,'' he said. ''I've watched him quite a few times with my own eyes now and what he does is brilliant. There's nothing which excites people as much as outright skill.''

Asked how interested he thought Del Piero would be about a move north, the Mariners' owner said he thought the Italian would be quite open to it. ''He can live the Mediterranean lifestyle here on the beautiful Central Coast,'' he said.

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The deals for both players will be negotiated independently.

''We're still in contact David's management team and we're confident that if he chooses Australia as his final destination, we'll be the club he comes to,'' Turnbull said.

''We're hoping to get an answer just after Christmas. Our understanding is that he's having a family Christmas for the first time in a long time and he's going to think about it over that.''

Despite Del Piero and his family settling well in Sydney, they are growing increasingly concerned about why the club has so far been reluctant to open fresh discussions.

However, it is thought the club wants to monitor how many games Del Piero plays, and whether there is a risk of any further breakdowns before committing to a new contract.

He has missed two games so far with injury, a hamstring complaint that also limited his output to a shortened cameo in last week's Sydney derby.

Sydney FC chairman Scott Barlow said in a statement on Tuesday the club was looking forward to opening discussions on a contract extension.

"We would like for Alessandro to remain at Sydney FC next season and we will also begin talking about opportunities beyond 2014,'' he said. ''There are a number of details yet to be worked through with Alessandro's management, these discussions will take place over the coming weeks.''

- Sydney Morning Herald

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