ASH WEDNESDAY: Errant Bellamy's way off his 'world aim' to emulate Del Piero

18 February 2009 12:31
Try not to laugh, but under an imaginatively written headline entitled 'Just Call Me Bel Piero' in October 2002, Craig Bellamy set himself a quite outrageous target.

Bellamy had just scored one and made another for Wales in a 2-1 victory over Italy when, unprompted, he made the declaration that his 'world aim was to be up there with Alessandro Del Piero'.

Inspiration: Del Piero

Itinerant: Bellamy

Some ambition, but the little Welsh tyro had been outstanding in front of 72,000 spellbound supporters at the Millennium Stadium, poking the ball past Christian Panucci and Alessandro Nesta to set up Simon Davies' opening goal:

Video: Wales' young buck shows Panucci a clean pair of heels

Naturally del Piero scored Italy's equaliser, but Bellamy was streets ahead of him that night, racing clear of Nesta and Panucci to score a stunning winner for Mark Hughes' vibrant young team:

Video: Mesmeric Bel Piero rounds Gigi Buffon

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  Bellamy was the next big thing, talking as good a game off the pitch as he was on it. After his performance against Italy that evening, few were willing to argue with him.

At the time of Bellamy's ambition, Del Piero had the earning power of David Beckham, the Italian powerhouse with the posterboy looks pulling in more readies than any other player on planet football.

Del Piero would argue that he deserved it, winning the Scudetto four times with Juventus and the Champions League in 1996 on his way to become the club's leading goalscorer.

In the intervening years, between 2002 and 2009, he has won three more Scudettos, the World Cup with Italy, scored his 250th goal for Juve and - get this, Craig - won three awards for gentlemanly conduct.

He's the Ryan Giggs of Italian football, the kind of guy you would like to sit down with for a cup of tea and ask how anyone can be so nice.

Last-gasp: Del Piero fires the second goal past Germany's Jens Lehmann - and Italy into the World Cup final

Which brings us neatly on to Bellamy, the PFA young player of the year at the time of his declaration and wowing the Gallowgate, as well as the supporters of Wales, with his exceptional performances.

Bellamy was something special (and he knew it), an itinerant with eye-catching ability: a goalscorer and a creator rolled into one angry young man.

So naturally he missed his next game through suspension, a Champions League clash against Juventus as luck would have it, because he had clouted an opponent off the ball in a game against Dinamo Kiev.

He is still the same today, blessed with talent and endeavour and still talking himself into trouble, this time with Manchester City

, the latest stop of his controversial career.

The winning goal against Middlesbrough

at Eastland on February 6 was not enough for him, gabbing off at half the opposing team as he walked off the field and demanding a post-match inquisition. 'Well you know what I'm like,' he admitted.

Little wonder the little terror was locked in the toilets of the Norwich team bus by Danny Mills when he was only 17.

He was at it again last Wednesday, taking on one of the 400 or so Wales supporters who made the trip to Portugal to watch their 1-0 defeat in a friendly against Poland.

His next stop was Fratton Park last Saturday, exploding at Herman Hreidarsson for having the audacity to mark him and then being booked because he could not control his forked tongue.

Pointing the finger: Hreidarsson and Bellamy clash at Fratton Park

Poor Nadir Belhadj had only just got on the field as a substitute when Bellamy appeared to throw a punch at him as they tangled on the touchline moments later, but anyone who has followed his career will accept that this is Bellamy's lot.

At 29, he will not change, there is no chance of that. He is recognised in the game as a first class trainer, first on the practice pitch and last off according to Alan Curbishley, his manager at West Ham, but it is a misguided talent.

His career should have taken off when he outclassed Del Piero, heading for a decorated career with a top four team who could nurture a talent and ambition that few top flight players possess.

He finally got the chance when he signed for Liverpool, but the infamous 'Nutter with the Putter' attack did for him and his career at Anfield.

Self-deprecating: Bellamy makes light of the Riise incident at the Nou Camp

According to those who have played against him, he is in the ear of opponents throughout the game, promising mental disintegration if he ever gets a run on them. Heaven knows what Nesta, Panucci and Fabio Canavarro made of it that night.

It is in his nature to be confrontational, but where has it taken this brooding Welshman? Moves to Celtic

on loan, Blackburn

, West Ham

and City are all on his CV, all of them impressive, but hardly matching his 'world aim'.

Few have the talent to match strikers in Del Piero's class, but Bellamy had it by the bucketload. He has just never worked out a way to use it.

Source: Daily_Mail