When Fredrico ‘Kiko’ Macheda burst onto the scene with a last minute winner against Aston Villa to practically hand United an 18th league title, his place in the history books was assured.
Had Macheda not bagged such a well taken goal, then there’s every chance that the record books would now read 19 titles to Liverpool 17 to United, as the Reds title challenge had been in danger of imploding prior to the Italian’s strike.
Macheda not only sent Old Trafford into raptures but also got everyone excited about the prospect of a young 17 year-old striker suddenly bursting onto the scene and possibly forming a partnership with Wayne Rooney.
Macheda’s goal in the next game of the 2008-09 campaign- a vital winner at Sunderland cemented his now glowing reputation as one of Europe’s hottest new talents and also helped to ensure that the title remained at Old Trafford.
Since the heady heights of that campaign though, there hasn’t been all that much to shout about when it comes to the Lazio youth product. Macheda’s goals have been that rare its easy to recall them all. The consolation goal against Chelsea last season, at least reminded everyone that Macheda was still a useful part of Sir Alex’s squad but it was a rare highlight on a somewhat disappointing season. Both for him and United. Macheda wasn’t helped by an injury that kept him out for a large part of the season.
The problem Macheda’s faced has been two-fold. On the one hand his debut was so emphatic that unless he was to carry United to Champion’s League glory with a hat trick in the final, then he was always going to seem to somehow be underachieving.
Then there’s been the stop start nature of his appearances, both this season and last Macheda’s been more out than in when it comes to the United team, with the Carling Cup still being his only real guarantee of first team action.
Of Macheda’s seven Premier League appearances this season only two have been starts which is hardly ideal for a striker looking to find some kind of form. There’s also the added burden of knowing that with the likes of Rooney, Berbatov as well as Michael Owen and new rising star Chicharito all arguably ahead of him in the pecking order, every opportunity he gets has to be grabbed with both hands. Rooney and Berbatov can have a bad game and start again next week, Kiko can’t.
The success of Danny Welbeck at Sunderland- who was actually not as highly regarded as Macheda by some pundits, has shown the benefits of allowing young United strikers the chance to flourish away from Old Trafford. Welbeck’s gone from United’s sixth choice striker to one of the Premier League’s hottest in a matter of weeks.
Meanwhile, Macheda’s career has stagnated somewhat due to a lack of first team chances. That hasn’t stopped a whole host of clubs being reportedly interested in acquiring the Italian’s services, after all being a United fringe player is usually good enough to be a first team player at most other clubs.
In the Premiership, Bolton, Wolves and Fulham have all been linked with Kiko, while his agent has mooted a possible return to Italy with a Serie A club as an alternative option. Personally I’d like to see Macheda stay in the EPL as, the pace is much quicker than in Italy and would better prepare him for exactly what he’ll be expected to cope with week in week out at United, eventually.
With his first club Lazio, as well as Parma, Juventus and Fiorentina all reportedly interested then a move to his native land may appeal to the young Italian.
Although playing in Serie A is obviously a very high standard, it’s not necessarily ideal for getting a young striker well prepared for life in the EPL. Take a look at Rolando Bianchi for example, who was one of Sven Goran Eriksson’s first signings at Manchester City.
Bianchi had been prolific at Reggina scoring a goal every other game in the season prior to his move to England. However at City the Italian struggled so much so that he eventually returned to Serie A after only 19 EPL appearances.
Of course you could also argue that the likes of Paulo Di Canio, Gianfranco Zola and Fabrizio Ravanelli have all made the switch from Italy to England without any problems.
The point with those three players is that they were arguably three of the EPL’s best ever strikers- certainly in the cases of Di Canio and Zola- and could have played in any country and any era.
For a youngster who’s developing and honing his skills, a trip to a slower paced league may not be entirely beneficial. Although regular football in Serie A would hardly be a disaster for Kiko, half a season at a Premier League club, could be just the ticket. As Welbeck and to a lesser extent Mame Diouf have shown, given a chance United’s young strikers can be very useful for any EPL side.