RUBEN Zadkovich has been a long-time admirer of Alessandro Del Piero, but the Jets enforcer is adamant noone in the A-League, not even the Italian maestro, deserves special protection from referees.
‘‘Del Piero is a one-in-a-million,’’ Zadkovich said yesterday. ‘‘He has been good enough to score goals in the best competitions in the world.
‘‘He has played at international level and has done the same thing.
‘‘I’m pretty sure he can handle himself. I don’t see why the referees should protect him any more than they should protect James Virgili.’’
Zadkovich’s comments follow calls from Sydney FC captain Terry McFlynn for Del Piero and other creative players to be shielded from rough-house tactics.
‘‘I’m not sure what the stats are but he’s got to be the most fouled player in the whole league, and that doesn’t count all the times he gets tackled unfairly and doesn’t get a freekick,’’ McFlynn told Fairfax Media.
‘‘It’s been spoken about before that these top-quality players like Alessandro and [Marcos] Rojas, we need to see them on the park week in, week out.
‘‘If they’re not getting protection, they’re not going to be on the park if they’re injured."
Zadkovich, who is close to finalising a new deal at the Jets, played alongside McFlynn in Sydney’s inaugural championship.
‘‘Terry McFlynn is a player who loves to get stuck in, so it is a little bit ironic hearing those comments come from him,’’ Zadkovich said.
‘‘He is a good gamesman, he knows how to win matches and he knows how to get the media hype on his side.
‘‘I’m sure that is a little bit of match play from him.’’
Zadkovich will add bite and energy to the Jets midfield after missing the 1-all draw against Wellington in New Zealand on suspension due to card accumulation.
It will be the third time he has played against Del Piero.
‘‘When I was a kid I used to watch him on telly,’’ Zadkovich said. ‘‘Now I am playing on the same pitch as him. That is a great experience, but I won’t be star-struck when the whistle blows. I will be looking to do my job and get stuck in.’’
Who partners Zadkovich in the centre of the park remains up in the air.
Captain Jobe Wheelhouse returned to the starting side in Wellington but sat out yesterday’s training session with a cork in his glute.
The 27-year-old, who appears long odds to get a new deal at the Jets, has turned down an approach by the Melbourne Heart.
Zadkovich has deputised for Wheelhouse but made no bones about who was the leader of the club.
‘‘Jobe is the captain of this team,’’ Zadkovich said. ‘‘He is a brilliant captain and a brilliant player ... I am more than happy to support him.’’
The Jets are chasing a rare clean sweep over Sydney.
They won 3-2 at Allianz Stadium in round three, Del Piero’s first home game, and repeated with a 2-1 triumph at Hunter Stadium in round 12.
Socceroo Jason Culina and recent addition Joel Griffiths did not feature in either match for Sydney.
Griffiths, who played three seasons at the Jets, leading them to the 2007-8 title, has formed an instant partnership with Del Piero.
He has scored two goals in two games and the former Juventus star has provided the assist for both.
‘‘When you have one good player like Del Piero, he can cause you trouble,’’ Zadkovich said. ‘‘When you stick two in there and they start working together, it becomes a lot harder to shut down.
‘‘Joel is a very smart player. He knows when to make the run and Del Piero is good enough to get him the ball.
‘‘It will be about not giving Del Piero too much time on the ball and making sure the boys are aware of where Joel is.’’
While McFlynn has demanded security for his marquee man, it is not the case for the Jets’ hired gun, Emile Heskey.
‘‘He doesn’t need protection. He is an absolute unit and can bury anyone, ’’ Zadkovich said.
‘‘I had to laugh at the New Zealand commentators for the Wellington game.
‘‘At the start they said Emile has only scored two goals in the last 10 games and the Jets would not be happy with his form.
‘‘It was a load of rubbish. I think he has scored one goal less than Del Piero – maybe not the same quality of goals, but he makes quality runs and is always the one there popping up and scoring.’’
Two of Heskey’s eight strikes have been against Sydney, one in each game.
‘‘The thing with Emile is that he turns up every week,’’ Zadkovich said.
‘‘It doesn’t matter if it is a big occasion or a small occasion. It doesn’t matter if it is a training session. He turns up, puts the boots on and works hard. I think his goal on the weekend was testament to that.’’
Like Zadkovich, Heskey is off contract.
‘‘I’m sure everyone would love him to be at the club next year,’’ Zadkovich said. ‘‘That is another one for people behind the scenes to sort out. Emile is doing his part.’’
AAP reports: Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson is adamant he still has the full support of owner Tony Sage despite the club’s worrying slide down the A-League table.
Glory have slipped to ninth after a six-game winless run but remain just two points adrift of sixth spot.
‘‘At the end of the day it’s how the owner’s feeling, whether he wants to make changes or not,’’ Ferguson said yesterday. ‘‘But I’m feeling pretty comfortable with Tony. Tony’s been very positive and supportive.
‘‘I don’t know if that’s a good thing. They say having support from the board normally puts you out the door.
‘‘But I’m comfortable with where I’m at with Tony.’’