Federico Macheda had everyone talking when he scored a stunning debut goal for Manchester United as a 17-year-old – but he did not remain a topic of conversation for long.
Tipped to be the Premier League’s next big thing, Macheda’s progress quickly slowed down, and many would probably struggle to recall where ‘Kiko’ is now.
We’ve looked back at his career which started so promisingly to see how Macheda has progressed, or not, since he left Old Trafford.
Alex Ferguson invited Macheda and his parents over from Italy while he was with Lazio’s academy. Italian clubs were unable to offer professional contracts to players under the age of 16.
The striker was unsurprisingly impressed by the setup at United so he and his family, who could barely afford a meal in Italy, decided to move to England.
His start to life in the country didn’t get off to the best of starts, though, as he was close to leaving over financial problems.
Speaking to ESPN, Macheda said: “I earned about £600 a month. That wasn’t enough for a family to live on; there had been a misunderstanding about money and my father got angry in a meeting. We threatened to leave, but United gave us a loan against my future contract.”
It turned out to be a good decision to stay as he was promoted to the reserve team at the age of just 16.
After impressing for the reserves, Macheda was given his first chance in the first team on April 5, 2009 when Sir Alex Ferguson named the 17-year-old among the substitutes against Aston Villa.
He came on when United were 2-1 down, but a certain Cristiano Ronaldo equalised to set up a grandstand finish.
It looked as though Villa were all set to go back to the Midlands with a point, though, before Macheda announced himself on the Premier League stage.
Receiving an average ball from Ryan Giggs with his back to goal, the youngster produced a mouthwatering piece of skill to turn his man and then curl a beautiful effort inside the far post. Are you watching this on loop as well?
Following the jubilation of scoring on his debut, Macheda again came off the bench in United’s next Premier League game.
United travelled to relegation-threatened Sunderland, who were holding on to a 1-1 draw thanks to Kenwyne Jones’ equaliser just after half-time.
Ferguson had the likes of Nani and Giggs to bring on to win the game but instead turned to Macheda.
Just a minute after he came off the bench, he put his side in front with, let’s say, a less pretty goal than his first. Maybe he’ll claim the touch was deliberate and a piece of brilliance, though. And who are we to argue?
Macheda then played the full 90 minutes of the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Everton as he continued to offer plenty of promise.
Macheda’s mini purple patch quickly came to a halt, though.
He was accused of complacency at Old Trafford and has since admitted that perhaps he was just happy to be there.
When playing time took a hit, Fergie suggested he went out on loan to an English club, but the forward insisted on going back to Italy. A decision he’d live to regret.
In fact, in an interview with ESPN, Macheda described it as “the worst mistake of my life”.
He chose Sampdoria, who had just sold two of their biggest assets in Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini, and so the weight on the shoulders of a still teenage Macheda was heavy.
It proved to be too much as he went 14 league games without scoring and was part of the side relegated to Serie B.
The season after the Sampdoria loan, Macheda joined fellow Premier League side QPR.
However, just three games into his stay at Loftus Road he picked up an ankle injury which required an operation, meaning it was back to United.
A year on, he was back out on loan this time in Germany with Stuttgart. It was another frustrating and goalless spell.
He chose to take a step down to the Championship, first with Doncaster, where another injury hindered his progress, but next up was Birmingham where he scored an impressive 10 goals in 18 games.
After realising his mistake to go on loan in Italy, Macheda decided against a return to Serie A at the end of his United contract in favour of a move to Cardiff to join his old reserve boss, Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
Everything looked set up for Macheda to prove himself again and be the main man in firing the Bluebirds back up to the Premier League. But he couldn’t escape injury.
He only managed 13 starts in the league over the space of two seasons for Cardiff, and after another unsuccessful loan spell, this time with Nottingham Forest, Cardiff paid up his contract.
It all feels a bit doom and gloom at this point, so let’s take a look at this piece of magic he produced for the Blues.
Macheda trained with Watford before deciding to go home and join Serie B side Novara.
‘Kiko’ may not have set the league alight, but by the end of his contract he had scored a respectable 11 times in 50 games.
He then found a new home at Panathinaikos, where he is back scoring goals at a good level.
Who knows, maybe we’ll see him back in the Premier League one day.
By Tom Rawcliffe