Five Years, Five Samurai, Five Stories

"Un vero cavaliere non lascia mai una signora." Alessandro Del Piero, June 2006.  Here's Adam Digby.

2011 marks the fifth anniversary of the Calciopoli scandal and the subsequent relegation of Italian football's grandest club, Juventus. Many times the players who left la vecchia Signora in the aftermath of that blackest of marks on the sports great history have been spoken of; called traitors, mercenaries and cowards. But what of those who stayed, the heroes who have become a part of club legend, names that will be forever loved by the Bianconeri faithful?

Their stand and choice to remain was recognised instantly by those on the Curva Scirea, who christened them the 'Samurai', noble warriors willing to give everything they had for the cause. Of course this was steeped in hyperbole - two of the five men viewed in these terms were all but forced to stay against their will - yet there is no denying the galvanising effect keeping four protagonists of that same summer's World Cup Final and a Balon d'Or winner had upon the city and among its global fan base.

Alessandro Del Piero, Mauro Camoranesi, Gianluigi Buffon, Pavel Nedved and David Trezeguet. All five of these players will always have the full gratitude and respect of the supporters, but their stories vastly differ since stepping out on the turf at Rimini's tiny Stadio Romeo Neri on that historic first weekend in Serie B.

The long-time club captain has seemingly rediscovered his best form after spending two years suffering as a second class citizen under Fabio Capello; who used Del Piero as a substitute - or indeed substituted him - in almost every game. He emulated fellow World Cup winner Paolo Rossi in becoming only the second man in history to top the scoring charts in the second division then the top flight in successive seasons.

Over the past five years he has broken a seemingly endless list of records, taking over as the all-time leading appearance maker and goal scorer, a remarkable feat given the huge history of the club. He has also thrived in continental competition, receiving a standing ovation at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu following a consummate Champions League performance.

His long-term strike partner - Frenchman David Trezeguet - trod a very similar path, becoming the clubs' all-time leading foreign goalscorer and coming second only to his team-mate in the 2007-08 Capocannoniere race. A combination of his high value and terrible agent saw him linked with a seemingly endless list of moves away, but he remained in Turin until this past summer, when he departed for Spanish club Hércules CF.

Releasing the World Cup winning hit-man was seen in many quarters as a hasty move, but it was essentially driven by the players desire to move to his wife's home town and coincided with the clubs need to reduce the wage bill. The move could definitely have been handled better however and Trezeguet certainly deserves to return for the chance to bid a proper 'adieu' to a fan base who adore him greatly to this day.

Much like the former Monaco man, Mauro Camoranesi was constantly linked with moves away in the summer of 2006, courtesy of another less-than-dignified agent. Yet he too remained and made some spectacular contributions - not least of which was a game against Lecce game during that season spent in Serie B - and his efforts in the 2007-08 season earned him the prestigious Guerin d'Oro award.

After that however he suffered numerous injuries and his form waned drastically, and it was no surprise he too was sold on this summer, moving to Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart. Yet their struggles in the early part of the season resulted in a coaching change and the new man found no place for him, resulting in his contract being annulled. At the beginning of February he signed for Club Atlético Lanús in his native Argentina. Again, much like Trezeguet the chance for a proper farewell should be extended to a player who undeniably gave his all to the Bianconeri.

That opportunity was most certainly afforded to Pavel Nedved, the emotional scenes of his final game when he captained the side against his former club Lazio and the whole squad returned to the pitch after the full-time whistle wearing shirts inscribed with Nedved and synonymous number 11. The 2003 Balon d'Or combined with Trezeguet and Del Piero to score 47 of the 83 goals Juve scored in Serie B to earn promotion but was also involved in two much less distinguished events.

A five-game ban during the season spent in the Cadetti, essentially for standing on the foot of a referee and a clash with Luis Figo the following season caused much controversy. He continued to play with class however and frequently displayed the explosive qualities than earned him his 'Furia Ceca' moniker. With his good friend Andrea Agnelli taking up the role of President this past summer it was no surprise the former player returned and has taken up a role on the board of directors, giving the club one more link with its illustrious past.

Gigi Buffon is perhaps, more than the other four men, the real story here. He has no extended ties to the club like Del Piero, was not coming to the end of his career like Nedved and, unlike Trezeguet or Camoranesi, was coming to into the peak of his career. Clearly among - if not standing alone as - the best players in the world at his position and when the club was relegated he could have had his pick of Europe's top clubs.

However, following his transfer from Parma in 2001, 'Superman' has truly fallen in love with la vecchia Signora, a fact confirmed this summer when once again the idea of him leaving came to the fore. Much to the relief of Juventini everywhere he affirmed his affection for the club and has finally returned to the team following surgery to repair the damage suffered in South Africa.

His displays over the past five years, although heavily interrupted by injury, have confirmed his place in the pantheon of great Italian keepers at the club, a lineage beginning with Gianpiero Combi, flowing through Dino Zoff, Stefano Tacconi and perhaps ending with Angelo Peruzzi, all men who have proudly represented both the Azzurri and Juventus. Countless times he has pulled off miracle stops, denying certain goals and winning valuable points.

All five men have rightly been awarded places among the fifty legends to be honoured at the new stadium, and the group will also be held dear by fans of the club, not just for staying through the clubs darkest hour but for their contributions since making that decision. Legend is a word used all too easily but for these men, these five samurai, it is a most fitting and apt moniker.

Follow Adam on Twitter @Adz77 for more insight into Italian football, past and present.

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