Not one of the three goalkeepers Marcello Lippi selected to represent Italy at this summer’s World Cup in South Africa has been included in Cesare Prandelli’s squad for the upcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Estonia, and not one of them will have been surprised. Gigi Buffon remains out after back surgery, Morgan De Sanctis is getting long in the tooth and Federico Marchetti? Well, he’s the one who cant’ even get a game for Cagliari.
Marchetti’s fall from grace has been shockingly swift. Less than four months ago he was enjoying the finest moment of his career, stepping in as Italy’s No1 at a World Cup after Buffon was forced out of the opener against Paraguay. It didn’t take long for things to turn sour, the Azzurri crashing out after finishing bottom of a group that also featured New Zealand, with Marchetti criticised for not showing greater command of his area during the decisive 3-2 defeat to Slovakia.
Still, none could have anticipated what was to happen next. Despite underwhelming displays in South Africa, Marchetti was still considered hot property in the transfer market. Benfica, Fulham and Celtic had all made enquiries about the goalkeeper early in the summer, but the most concrete interest was from Sampdoria. In the end, though, they too baulked at the asking price.
Then Marchetti made a mistake far greater than any he had made in South Africa. “I lived the end of the championship and the first days with the national team holding high hopes of joining Samp but in the end I cost too much and stayed at Cagliari,” he told a Gazzetta dello Sport reporter shortly after the World Cup, before stressing that he was still far from upset at the prospect of returning for the Isolani. “But I have such strong feelings for this club.”
The interview was not published immediately, but instead held until 23 July – after Marchetti had joined up with Cagliari’s pre-season training camp. Players were banned from speaking to the press during camp, so the team president Massimo Cellino was furious when the quotes appeared in Gazzetta. Marchetti avoided a fine after explaining the situation to the club’s sporting director Francesco Marroccu, but the next day he was heckled by a small group of fans during a 45 minute appearance against local side Ussana.
He hasn’t played since. On 27 July a statement appeared on the club’s website stating that they would do “everything we can do to” to move Marchetti on. The manager Pierpaolo Bisoli, familiar from his own playing days with Cellino’s tendency to hold a grudge, advised the player to leave “for your own good”. Marchetti’s agent, Giuseppe Bozzo, sought out new suitors and there was reported interest from clubs as big as Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Chelsea.
Again, though, nothing materialised. Bozzo attacked Cagliari for pricing his client out of the market only for the club to accuse the agent of demanding an excessive fee himself. In the meantime Michael Agazzi took over starting duties and Cagliari signed another back-up in Ivan Pelizzoli. After the transfer window had shut Cellino went on the attack, insisting that Marchetti was too big for his boots and needed to be “taught a lesson”.
Since then, nothing. There was hope for a conciliation in mid-September when Cellino said there was “There is always a need [for Marchetti]” and that “Seeing him on the pitch again is a great thought”. Marchetti was allowed to train with the first-team again and Bisoli insisted the keeper was part of the squad and that his exclusion was purely a technical decision.
Yet the suspicion is that Cellino was only covering his own back, with the manager offering support. It was only last year, after all, that Goran Pandev had his contract with Lazio torn up by the courts after arguing he had been frozen out by the club. It would not be in Cellino’s interests to lose this asset for nothing. Marchetti is yet to make it even onto the bench.
Perhaps the saddest aspect is that Marchetti himself is anything but a trouble-maker. In fact he’s quite the opposite, a model professional whose sense of devotion to the teams he plays for was amply demonstrated at Albinoleffe, where he would show up early with his own gardening tools to work the turf in the goalmouth before games in order to save the club money.
He often cites a road accident in March 2005 – when he was lucky to survive after a truck ploughed into a car carrying him and two friends, causing it to burst into flames – as having forced him to rethink his life and buckle down. From then until this summer his rise had certainly been rapid. After a successful year with non-league Biellese he joined Albinoleffe in Serie B. Two years it was Cagliari in the top-flight, where he finished his first season just behind Inter’s Julio Cesar in the Goalkeeper of the Year voting. His Italy debut soon followed.
Now, though, his is a career on hold. Prandelli called him up to his first Italy squad, for a friendly against the Ivory Coast in August, but with the goalkeeper no longer being selected for his club side the manager has had no choice but to look elsewhere. The emergence of two exciting young prospects in Palermo’s Salvatore Sirigu and Bologna’s Emiliano Viviano has made it easy for the national side not to miss Marchetti.
Likewise, a successful start for the younger, cheaper, Agazzi has made it easy for Cagliari to overlook Marchetti too. Many of his veteran team-mates have been disgusted by the club’s actions but after reports of an imminent mutiny Bisoli made an emphatic statement this weekend by dropping both his captain Daniele Conti and vice-captain Allesandro Agostini. The team earned a very respectable 0-0 draw at Chievo in their absence, further strengthening the manager’s position.
Conti and Agostini are expected to be forgiven and brought back into the fold this week, but Marchetti will remain on the margins, waiting for January to bring fresh hope of a move. And perhaps, somewhere down the line, a chance to prove that he deserved that place in South Africa.