Federico Macheda: The Fall of a Golden Boy

Federico Macheda- The Fall of a Golden Boy 

It was 10 years ago since, Federico Macheda burst onto the scene as he resurrected Manchester United’s title hopes with a stunning late winner against Aston Villa in 2009. 

The 17-year-old leapt off the bench and into the history books as he became United’s youngest ever Premier League goalscorer. He was adhered to the red half of the city and was tipped to be the next big thing off the famed United production line. However, his career never hit the heights that were once very much promised for the man known as ‘Kiko’. 

Macheda was snapped up by United at the age of 16 from Italian side Lazio. Due to Italian football regulations, Kiko was unable to sign a professional deal with Lazio as he was under the age of 18. Shortly after his 16th birthday, he and his parents were invited by Sir Alex Ferguson to Carrington, Manchester United’s training complex. 

Kiko was more than impressed with the set-up and decided to move to England to join the Red Devils, in what was a lucrative deal for his family who was struggling financially in the Italian capital. He signed his first professional contract with United on his 17th birthday in August 2008. 

Macheda was put straight into the United under 18 side during the 07-08 season along with another Italian prospect Davide Petrucci who arrived from Lazio’s city rivals AS Roma in the summer. He also featured alongside future internationals in Jesse Lingard, Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Danny Drinkwater as well as Brazilian twins Rafael and Fabio da Silva. 

Kiko bagged his first under-18 goal in a 1-0 away win against Barnsley in September 2007. He would continue goal scoring form as he finished top scorer for the u-18s with 12 goals. Macheda also featured for the reserve team in February 2008 and picked up his first winners medal as United won the Manchester Senior Cup beating Bolton 2-0. 

The following campaign Kiko saw his game time in the reserve side increase as he scored eight goals in eight games including a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw with Newcastle in March. His great form was recognised as he was named as a sub for the first team against Aston Villa in April 2008. 

United had lost their last two games and was staring down a third consecutive defeat as they entered the last 10 minutes against Aston Villa 2-1 down.  

Cristiano Ronaldo equalised for United in the 80th minute before Macheda, earlier subbed on for Nani announced himself to the Premier League with a debut goal to remember. 

As United pushed for a winner in added time, Macheda received a ball from Ryan Giggs on the edge of the box, the debutant produced a wonderful piece of skill as he turned Villa defender Luke Young before curling a beautiful effort into Brad Friedel’s far post. 

Macheda would follow up his heroics a week later as United found themselves struggling again, this time as relegation strugglers Sunderland held the league leaders 1-1 with 15 minutes to go.  

Ferguson subbed Macheda on instead of Nani or Giggs, the Italian repaid the faith and a minute after coming on he deflected Michael Carrick’s wayward effort into the bottom corner to give United a 2-1 win, with those goals being crucial in United winning their third Premier League in a row. 

 Kiko went onto play the full 90 minutes in the FA Cup semi-final that year as they lost to eventual runners-up Everton on penalties. With his first Premier League start coming in a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough in May. At the end of the season, Macheda won the Jimmy Murphy Academy Player of the Year in recognition of his performances at every level throughout the 2008-2009 season. 

In the following season, Macheda failed to replicate his form from the previous season, only featuring in 449 minutes of first-team football all season, not even doubling his total of 279 minutes the year before only making his debut in April. 

Macheda’s first minutes of the 2009-2010 season came in a cup game against Wolves in late September. Kiko made two starts all season, the first a Carling Cup win against Barnsley and a meaningless Champions League group stage at home to Besiktas with United already qualified through. 

Towards the end of 2009, Macheda suffered an injury setback keeping him out till January, he had previously signed a new four-year deal in December. Macheda made his first league appearance of the season on March 27 in a 4-0 win over Bolton. 

The following game was a top of the table clash at home against Chelsea, the visitors and eventual champions won 2-1 with Macheda netting the consolation and his only goal of the year after coming off the bench in a controversial game. Kiko featured in all but one of United’s remaining league fixtures that season.  

Macheda’s form suffered even more in the 2010-2011 season as he was loaned out to Sampdoria in January after netting only once for United in 536 minutes. Macheda scored his only goal in his first start for the club in a Coppa Italia win over Udinese. However, he wouldn’t score for Sampdoria in 14 league games as he failed under the weight of pressure to fit into Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini’s vacant boots. Sampdoria were subsequently relegated at the end of the season. 

Macheda returned to United expressing his desire to play in England stating, ‘for a youngster, England is a better place to play.’ Kiko featured in only 44 minutes of league action for United. He scored his last United goal in November 2011 from the penalty spot as United were knocked out of the Carling Cup by Championship side Crystal Palace. 

Queens Park Rangers signed Macheda in January 2012 on loan for the rest of the season but returned to United in March for treatment for an ankle injury that ended his season. Kiko featured only three times in the league for QPR. 

Macheda left United in January 2013 again the following season for Stuttgart in another goalless, frustrating loan spell. The following September, Kiko joined Championship side Doncaster on a month’s loan scoring three goals in five games before later returning in January 2014 for the remainder of the season but was unable to score in 10 league games. 

Macheda spent the 2013-2014 season on loan as his form looked to have turned a corner as he scored 10 goals in 18 games for Birmingham City. 

However, after stagnating during the last four years, Macheda was released upon the expiry of his contract and his once golden boy status in football diminished. Macheda decided against a return to Serie A to stay in England and moved to newly relegated Cardiff City to join his old reserve team boss, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 

Macheda spent two years with the Welsh side bagging six goals in 27 league games for the Bluebirds. However, his journey around English football wasn’t about to end as he finished the 2015-2016 season on loan at Nottingham Forest failing to score. Kiko returned to Cardiff but saw his contract terminated by mutual consent in August 2016. 

Macheda trained with Watford before leaving England to return home to join Serie B side Novara, he finally looked settled at a club as he managed his first brace in six years and scored 10 in 51 league games. Nevertheless, he left the club upon the expiry of his deal at the end of the 2017-2018 season. 

Macheda’s journeyman career took him to pastures new as he signed for Greek side Panathinaikos in September 2018. He managed 11 goals in 28 games in the remainder of the 2018-2019 season as the Greek side disappointingly finished mid-table. 

Kiko has scored three goals in seven league games this season at Panathinaikos, although solid form if it is to continue, it’s a far cry from the career that everyone had expected of the Italian. 

At 28 years old the ship might have sailed on the glittering career Kiko could’ve basked in after exploding on the scene as a fresh-faced 17-year-old. But who knows if one day we will see Macheda back in England or at the top level if he can continue to become a consistent goal scorer. 

Sub-edited by Samuel Brady 

This image was modified by Overtime Online under the Creative Commons License.

This image was modified by Overtime Online under the Creative Commons License.

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