David Trezeguet struck his shot crisply, left-footed and with a, perpendicular back lift so that, from eight yards out, it was all but unstoppable. Juventus were already 4-2 up at Atlanta when Trezeguet made his short-range step into history, scoring their fifth, but he celebrated in the full knowledge he had reached a significant milestone. With his 167th goal in Juventus's colours, Trezeguet had become the most prolific foreign goalscorer for Italy's most decorated club. That is some yardstick. The Frenchman's goal had taken him level with the great Argentinian Omar Sivori's long-standing place in the club's mythology and put his name in the museum of Italian football forever. It was also Trezeguet's sixth goal in 10 games, a happy return to the kind of consistent finishing that has been a feature of most of the 32-year-old's career.
He now has some time off, because Trezeguet will not be involved in France's play-off matches for the 2010 World Cup against Ireland. His international days, of which there have been 66, are somewhat distant since the France head coach, Raymond Domenech, became unconvinced by his impressive statistics. And Domenech is not alone. Trezeguet has often been a footballer suspected of being too much of a specialist: a number nine who seems effective only in the confines of the penalty box. He has never had the searing pace of his compatriot Nicolas Anelka, nor the dribbling skill of his friend and contemporary, Thierry Henry.
At Juve, despite being in his tenth year there, he has not the cachet of Alex Del Piero. Indeed, only eight months ago the then Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri preferred others when Trezeguet returned from injury in time to spearhead a possible assault on the Serie A title. Player and manager fell out badly over the issue. These, said a beaming Trezeguet on Saturday night, are happier times. "After all the difficulties I had last season it's great. The new coach, Ciro Ferrara, put his faith in me."
Ferrara's faith was based on several campaigns watching Trezeguet from close range as a Juve teammate, so he knows Trezeguet's uncanny ability to sneak away from his marker and find space in the box. Trezeguet was once described by his former mentor Arsene Wenger as "like a snake: he's a bit quiet and then he'll all of a sudden kill you with his finishing." Henry, who failed at Juve in the late 1990s, said: "He always knows where the ball is going to end up, so it looks as though the ball is actually seeking him out rather than the opposite."
Trezeguet willingly conforms to the idea that he is a poacher par excellence. His instincts are part genetic, part hard work. He is the son of a professional footballer, an Argentinian who played in France. The young David spent most of his childhood in South America and represented an Argentinian club in his teens before committing himself to France. He joined Juventus in 2000, shortly after scoring the goal that won France that year's European championship, at Italy's expense. He was hired by a club used to high turnovers at centre-forward, but he stayed and stayed. He was Serie A's top scorer and Player of the Year in his second season and three times has recorded more than 20 goals in a league campaign.
Juve have learned to trust in his goals, but not always in his lifelong commitment to the cause. He looked almost certain to leave after the Serie B season of 2006-07. But his figures - 167 goals in 290 games - now proclaim loyalty and longevity. And his latest strikes, he hopes, will restore some of the glitter of his early Juve career, with its two league titles. "We believe in the scudetto," he said, as Juve's win closed the gap on leaders Inter. "We have consistency again. We're back in the hunt."