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Del Piero says playing days at Sydney FC are over; club wants to keep him in off-field role

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SYDNEY - Alessandro Del Piero has played his last game for Sydney FC but could remain with the A-League club in an off-field capacity.

Sydney FC announced Monday that the 39-year-old Juventus great, the highest-profile player ever in Australia's domestic competition, had ended his "playing role with the club."

Del Piero confirmed it in a statement under the title "Ciao Australia," saying the time had arrived "to say arrivederci" after two seasons with Sydney, but adding that he was happy to explore other opportunities with the club.

"I'm really grateful for the last two years and for the club's request for me to remain and with whom I am happy to explore new opportunities to continue our relationship," the Italian striker said on his website.

Sydney FC last week fired Frank Farina as head coach after finishing fifth in the 2013-14 season, sparking speculation that Del Piero was a contender to go straight into management. He is not widely considered a front-runner for the head coaching role at Sydney FC, but the club wants to keep him involved.

"Today is bitter-sweet. While we would have liked to see Alessandro remain at Sydney, his decision now allows us to further our discussions about some exciting new opportunities for our ongoing relationship and to build on the legacy that has been started," Sydney FC chairman Scott Barlow said.

Del Piero scored 24 goals for Sydney and was the club's leading scorer in both seasons he played.

When the 2006 World Cup winner was signed in September 2012, season ticket sales at Sydney FC surged by several thousand overnight. And in his first season in the league, attendance increased by more than 100,000.

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