Alessandro Del Piero rejected Liverpool approach out of respect for Heysel victims

 

Sydney FC striker Alessandro Del Piero has admitted rejecting an approach from Liverpool out of respect for victims of the Heysel disaster.

Thirty-nine Juventus fans were killed before the start of the 1985 European Cup final at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels - with hundreds injured - after Liverpool fans broke through a fence and caused a wall to collapse.

A 10-year-old Juve fan at the time of the tragedy, Del Piero went on to make 705 appearances and score 290 goals on his way to becoming a Nerazzurri legend.

But after 19 years with the Turin giants, 11 of those spent as captain, the former Italy international was not offered a new contract at the end of last season.

Ambitious Australian outfit Sydney FC emerged as the frontrunner for his signature but that did not dissuade Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool from making a late bid for his services.

But Del Piero revealed that a move to Merseyside was never likely given the strength of feeling at his former club.

He told the Gazzetta dello Sport: "The negotiations with Sydney were already at an advanced stage and then I thought about what happened at Heysel.

"Juve and Liverpool have worked hard to mend their relationship, but for a lot of people it's something that can never be forgotten.

"I wasn't interested in money. I've won everything there is to win so another Champions League campaign would have done nothing for me.

"I came to Australia to experience something new and I want to make the most of this new adventure.

"Above all I just want to play football."

Del Piero also took time to recall the emotions he felt in his final game for Juve, a 3-1 league victory over Atalanta at the Juventus Stadium in May.

He added: "The fans went above and beyond that day.

"No one had actually told me that I would never play for Juve again, but I knew that was the case.

"I saw the board go up with my number on it and asked myself 'Do I really have to say goodbye? Do I have to leave the stadium for the last time?'.

"I bowed to all four stands and waved to my family. I wanted to take it all in but I remembered where I was and told myself 'Ale, get off, it's over'.

"But the fans made me come back out onto the pitch. I did two laps of honour and they threw hundreds of scarves at me, and every now and then I paused to savour the moment.

"I saw people crying. I suppose it went well, but goodbyes always leave a bitter taste in the mouth."

PA

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