AGONA Scouting Report: Who is New Panathinaikos Striker Federico Macheda
Panathinaikos have finally completed the final piece of the puzzle in their squad by signing striker Federico Macheda. In conjunction with the news, AGONAsport takes a closer look at the Italian’s career to date.
Tough Upbringing Paves Way for Difficult Start
Macheda was born in Rome on the 22nd of August, 1991. He was a fanatical Lazio fan growing up in very difficult surroundings and got the chance to play for the Lazio youth team, who spotted him at a local club in Rome. Life was never easy for Macheda though, growing up his family was not in a strong financial position. His father was a night watchman and his mother a maid. When he was not training, he was taking care of his younger brother. He stayed for 3 years in the same grade at school, failing the exams on all 3 occasions.
By this stage, his mind was solely focused on football and he earnt his first contract where Lazio paid him 2,000 Euro per month. Things were going smoothly, with Macheda impressing for his boyhood club but due to the restrictions in Italian football, Lazio could not sign him on a professional contract until his 18th birthday.
Dramatic Announcement on the World Stage
Enter English giants Manchester United. The Red Devils snapped up the 188cm striker just after his 16th birthday. In his first season at the club, he finished as the top scorer for the U18’s team with an eye-catching 12 goals in 21 games. He then impressed for the Reserve team at Old Trafford which prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to give him his chance in the First Team on the 5th of April, 2009.
Manchester United were losing 2-1 at home to a rampant Aston Villa side. The clock was ticking down. Ferguson looks to his bench and throws on the 18 year old striker in a bid to chase the game, replacing Nani on the hour mark. Cristiano Ronaldo scores the equaliser in the 80th minute before Macheda scores a dramatic winner in stoppage time to win the game 3-2 and announce himself at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ to the world.
He had the world at his feet at this stage and his stock was rapidly rising. He was on the bench for Manchester United in their UEFA Champions League first leg quarter final against Porto, then he came on as a substitute in a league game against Sunderland where he replaced Dimitar Berbatov. Within 46 seconds. the ‘wonderkid’ had the ball in the back of the net once again.
He then got his first start in an FA Cup semi final against Everton and it was the first time in his career he failed to score. Shortly after, he got his first league start in a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough. At the end of his first season at senior level, he was crowned as the winner of the Jimmy Murphy Academy Player of the Year.
He played his part for the Red Devils in the 2010-11 season, where he played in the Champions League for the first time in his career against CSKA Moscow in a 3-3 draw at home. Injury resulted in him missing out on the controversial 2-1 League Cup final win over Aston Villa, but this is where things started to go downhill.
Sampdoria Loan the First of Many
Macheda joined Sampdoria in his native Italy as a replacement for Antonio Cassano. He scored his one and only goal for Sampdoria in a Coppa Italia tie against Udinese which said it all. Relegation to Serie B made it impossible for him to stay, so he headed back to Manchester United for another chance.
He was always going to be up against it, however, a different lifestyle and football culture played its part according to “Kiko” himself. Macheda stated that the “food was awful, just like the weather”, thus illustrating how difficult it was to adjust.
Failed Loan Move to QPR Continues Downward Spiral
On the 2nd of January, 2012 he joined QPR on a short-term loan deal but he only made 3 appearances and returned to Manchester United early for treatment on an ankle injury which ended his season prematurely.
Chances were now few and far between at Old Trafford, and even though he played for the Red Devils in their preseason tour of South Africa, he was loaned out to Stuttgart. He made 14 appearances and again failed to score. The Germans had an option to buy, but it was not exercised.
As a result, he found himself at Doncaster Rovers for two separate loan spells, where he made a total of 15 appearances for a return of 3 goals. He then signed with Birmingham City on a season long loan deal for the 2014-15 season. This would prove to be his last loan spell as a Manchester United player but it did prove to be somewhat of a success. He ended as the top scorer for the Blues in the league on 10 goals in 18 appearances.
Solskjaer Gamble Fails
Upon his release from Manchester United, Kiko joined newly relegated Cardiff City in the Championship. His former manager at the Manchester United Reserves’ Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took a punt on the Italian. He scored twice in a League Cup win over Port Vale but overall his record for the Welsh outfit is grim to say the least and consequently ended up on loan at Nottingham Forest, where he only made 3 appearances.
He returned from this loan spell as a broken player and was clearly not going to be part of new manager Russell Slade’s plans moving forward. As a result, his contract was terminated by mutual consent on the 30th of August, 2016.
Return to Italy as a Journeyman
Macheda joined Serie B outfit Novara on an 18 month contract on the 14th of December, 2016 but returned home as a journeyman looking to resurrect his career which was on a downward trajectory for some time. He ended up scoring 10 goals in 49 appearances in Italy’s second tier. Nothing to set the world alight. Novara’s relegation meant he was on the lookout for a new club as he was released.
Move to Athens Last Chance to Turn Things Around
Kiko joined Panathinaikos on the 3rd of September, 2018 in what will almost certainly be his last chance to save his career. At 27 he is far from a veteran but has invariably carried the negative stigma of being a ‘journeyman’ by virtue of playing for 9 clubs. Panathinaikos will be his 10th club.
He brings with him a considerable amount of experience, something which can undoubtedly assist a relatively young squad. In his first interview with the club, he stated that he has the “characteristics as a person to be a role model for the younger players”. This is exactly what will be required as Argiris Kampetsis and Nikos Vergos have also recently joined the Greens after moves to big club in the form of Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid respectively did not go to plan. He needs to act as a leader to the squad, but especially to these two players, so they can see the importance of making good career choices and staying in good physical shape.
The fire is still burning for Macheda. He claims that he “wants to reach new highs with Panathinaikos” and he has joined based on the advice of a close friend in former Trifylli legend in Djibril Cisse. A player that has trained and played with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, and Paul Scholes has to now lead the way as he has joined as somewhat of a ‘marquee’ player given the fact that the club has opted to choose him as the only foreigner that can be signed.
Kiko is perceived as a quick and versatile forward, who can play as the main striker (target man) or in a more supporting role as a second striker or attacking midfielder. Panathinaikos need him to score 10-15 goals as he will be tasked with bringing the goals that lift the team up the ladder and in turn continue the strong start made by his teammates. He will be the main man, the experienced 9 that will be ultimately judged on his goals.
He is primarily right-footed but can also use his left. Strong finishing is his biggest attribute which bodes well for the Greens. He is also described as a modern striker due to his clever movement, technical skills, ability to read the game, strong sense of positional awareness and a good curling shot.
Finally, his ability to play with his back to goal under pressure and hold the ball up in a bid to bring teammates into the game will be vital. His height means he is a target and again, this is very important considering Panathinaikos does not have a single player that can do this on the roster.