The policy of acquiring young, exciting talent from overseas and then developing it in your academy is something that Manchester United have excelled at in recent years. Rafael and Federico Macheda have broken into the first team and the likes of Fabio and Rodrigo Possebon are waiting in the wings ready to make their mark. United have particularly exploited this trend in Italy, where youngsters cannot sign professional terms until they reach 16, which allows foreign clubs to pounce and sign them for nothing before their 16th birthday.
The most notable youngsters signed by United using this rule are Giuseppe Rossi and Federico Macheda, the latter was poached from Lazio and then burst onto the scene by scoring the winning goals against Aston Villa and Sunderland last season. Macheda leads what is a mini Italian revolution at Old Trafford, with ex-Roma starlet Davide Petrucci and the Italian duo of Alberto Massacci and Michele Fornasier, who were taken from under the noses of Empoli and Fiorentina respectively.
So who are these Italian starlets Massacci and Fornasier? Massacci is a 16 year old right back that was tracked by United’s scouts for some time before signing with the club, after being named player of the tournament in an international youth team event in 2008. He is highly regarded at United as a genuine talent with bags of potential. Tall (he’s 6 foot 2), strong, with great positional sense and an abundance of pace, Massacci loves to get forward at every opportunity. He needs to improve his tackling and defending, but that will come with time.
Massacci never played in a game for Empoli, but was on the fringes of the first team, before Sir Alex Ferguson beat the Serie B club to sign the coveted defender on a pro deal. Sir Alex even phoned Massacci personally to ask him to come to Old Trafford, with Massacci telling Gazzetta Dello Sport:
“When Sir Alex Ferguson rang me up, I couldn’t believe it, I had an hour-long conversation with him, in English. He seemed a humble person and nobody from the club made the pressure of an historic side weigh on my shoulders.
“In life a chance like this only comes past you once, so you’ve got to grab it with both hands. It isn’t an easy decision aged 16 to leave home, family and friends, but I don’t want to have regrets.”
Like Massacci, Fornasier is also a defender and was the captain of Italy’s Under-16 side. The 16 year old was poached from the Italian giants before he could sign professional terms, which angered the Serie A club, who complained about United to FIFA. United were cleared of all charges, and Fornasier has impressed for United’s academy side recently, who are currently second in the Academy league behind Everton. Fornasier is highly rated in Italy and travelled with the Youth team squad last year in the Milk Cup, alongside Alberto Massacci.
Massacci and Fornasier were two of the hottest prospects in Italian football before they joined United and if they can continue to develop at Old Trafford as well as Macheda did, they could be successful at Old Trafford. As they are both only 16, it will be a few years before we see them knocking down the doors to the first team. The only problem for Massacci, however, is the presence of Brazilian sensation Rafael, who has infinite potential and has already broke into the first team. But if Massacci can improve his defensive attributes we could see both of them play down the right hand side at Old Trafford in a few years time.
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