The pandemic has changed the dynamics of how the players react: Del Piero

Juventus FC legend Alessandro Del Piero talks about the mental impact of the pandemic on footballers, the eternal Messi vs Ronaldo debate and who he thinks will reach the Champions League final.

Alessandro Del Piero

Alessandro Del Piero named his former club Juventus and Manchester City as his picks to reach the Champions League final this year.   -  EDGE SRL

The pandemic had a notable mental impact on the football players the world over especially because of the fear about quarantines and confinements, feels Italian World Cupper and Juventus FC legend Alessandro Del Piero.

Speaking to select media on Monday, Del Piero felt that the empty stadiums also made it easier for a lot of players who found it difficult to handle the pressure of the fans during the normal times.

“The second half of last year and this year so far has been different for football for two reasons. The first one, you don't have fans coming to the stadium. This has changed the dynamics of how the players react. A lot of players now, maybe with less confidence and less personality, can express themselves better because they don't feel the pressure of the fans,” Del Piero said during the online interaction hosted by Sony Sports Network.

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“The second thing is surely the process (the pandemic protocols) that the players and the teams go through. This affects the concentration levels of the players. The process of continuous testing and the subsequent quarantine for 15 days after the discovery of COVID, does create an uncomfortable situation which no player likes,” Del Piero added.

On the question of who he thinks is the greatest player of all time (GOAT), Del Piero said he would prefer to take the best qualities of both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. “It will be unfair to call one of them the GOAT because both have some qualities that can make a team win in three seconds. Cristiano is a hardworking guy and has incredible qualities when it comes to shooting, be it with the right or the left leg. He is amazing with the header too. He is always dying to win.

“Messi is naturally talented and when you see him play, you feel he does not need any training. I would love to keep the best qualities of Ronaldo and mix it with the natural quality of Messi and create the perfect player,” Del Piero said. “This is what the players, the young kids, should be looking for. They need to try and learn things from different players because there are some qualities everywhere,” he added.

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When asked about which teams he would like to see in the UEFA Champions League final, Del Piero made a fine assessment of the contest and put Manchester City and Juventus FC as his favourites.

“There lot of teams with all the quality to reach the final. That is because of the talent of the players, because of the talent of the coaching staff, and also because of the history of the club. So predicting the finalists or the winner is very difficult. We'll find a lot about that in the upcoming weeks,” he said.

“Plus we are also going in through a very particular year that is unusual for a football player. It is because some of them finished (the fixtures) very early and some of them finished very late last season. With things getting irregular many teams saw their performances suffering. So you can clearly make out how the things are going on. I believe that Manchester city has a big chance as they look very composed. My line up for the final will be Manchester City and Juventus FC,” he added.

Talking about experience of playing in the opening season of the Indian Super League (ISL), Del Piero said that he was amazed by India. “My experience in India was absolutely incredible from many points. It was a big adventure coming to a new country. Plus the first year of ISL was particularly, I don't want to say problematic. Every time you start a new thing there is a lot of enthusiasm but there are some problems, like with logistics or some other stuff.

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“I am still following ISL. And I am really happy that the season has been expanded from three months to six months now. I really enjoyed going around the country and that really opened my eyes and touched my heart as I came to understand your culture and customs. It was amazing to see the Diwali celebrations and it was a great experience travelling from north to south and from east to west. I really enjoyed it and I hope I can come back really, really soon,” Del Piero said before signing off.