Pitchside Europe

Year in Review: Addio, Ale

Alessandro Del Piero waves goodbye to Juventus fans

We are asking all of our experts to give us their picks of 2012. Here James Horncastle reviews the year in Italian football.

Best Match

A tough one. The Derby della Madonnina in May certainly had a bit of everything. Diego Milito got a hat-trick, Zlatan Ibrahimovic a brace, as Inter, and the scorer of the winner, Douglas Maicon, ended Milan's title hopes. And yet it has to be the semi-final of Euro 2012 between Italy and Germany, the temporary coming of age of man-child Mario Balotelli, whose double sent his country, against all odds, to the final.

Best Moment

Alessandro Del Piero's farewell from Juventus. Replaced in the 57th minute of their final league game of last season against Atalanta, he walked around the pitch while play went on around him. No one was watching the match. Fans tossed flowers and scarves at his feet. Grown men cried as this living legend said goodbye after almost two decades at Juventus.

Funniest Moment

Often accusing his own team of not possessing any balls, Palermo President Massimo Zamparini can no longer say the same, if his claim that "I am eating my second testicle. I already ate my first" after defeat to Bologna, coached by the manager he sacked Stefano Pioli, is true.

Best Player

Andrea Pirlo, without any doubt. Released by Milan, a move to Turin saw him prove not only that he's still got it, but inspire Juventus to an undefeated season in Serie A, their first Scudetto since Calciopoli and then mastermind Italy's run to the final of Euro 2012. His momentum shifting, Joe Hart humiliating 'panenka' in the quarter-final against England, also merits consideration as one of football's moments of the year 2012.

Biggest Surprise

Maybe Luca Toni. Who would have thought that five years after leaving Fiorentina and now 35, supposedly finished following a spell in Dubai with Al-Nasr, he'd be back at the club where he won the European Golden Boot and scoring goals again. Six in eight starts for the Viola in Serie A is beyond most people's expectations.

Worst Moment

The tragic death of Piermario Morosini. The Livorno midfielder collapsed during a Serie B game against Pescara back in April. After the stroke suffered by Antonio Cassano which was suspected to have been caused by an undetected congenital heart defect and then what happened to Fabrice Muamba, this brought the issue of a heart scans and treatment into sharper focus.

Biggest Disappointment

The lingering shadow of the Calcioscommesse scandal and, in some cases, the inadequate handling of it by Italy's sporting justice system. Then there was the incident at Marassi towards the end of last season, when Genoa ultras demanded that the players hand over their shirts because they were unworthy of them, a show of power that they simply shouldn't have over the game.

Unsung Hero

While at Bologna last season, midfielder Gaby Mudingayi, now at Inter, bought 100 tickets for his side's game against Genoa in April and asked that they be distributed by a local homeless charity. He has since become an ambassador for the "I'm Italian too" charity which seeks to obtain citizenship for children of immigrants born in Italy.

Who to look out for in 2013

It's the year of Stephen El Shaarawy. Il Faraone's talent was undisputed, but to step into the shoes of the departed Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the most difficult moment of the Berlusconi era at Milan and score 16 goals for his club already this season not to mention getting his first for Italy against France is a remarkable achievement. His profile will only keep on rising through 2013.