A few years ago Italian goalkeeping was in crisis. Serie A was full of foreign goalkeepers, the few quality homegrown net-minders were getting on in years, and there didn't appear to be any promising youngsters coming through to replace them. It looked like Gigi Buffon might have to do a George Foreman and keep competing till the age of 48.
Then, all of a sudden, the next generation arrived. Emiliano Viviano, Salvatore Sirigu, Antonio Mirante, talented young Italian 'keepers sprung up across Serie A, and Federico Marchetti was in the vanguard, regarded as one of, if not the best of the bunch.
Marchetti's maiden Azzurri appearance was only two years ago and his Serie A debut with Cagliari was just one year before that, so it's tempting to still think of him as a youngster – the only problem being that the boy from Bassano del Grappa turned 28 in February.
It was around about this time last summer that Marchetti made it clear he would like to leave Cagliari and join a bigger club. His comments were fairly innocuous by the standards of the modern game, but in the eyes of the Sardinian club's President Massimo Cellino, they constituted high treason. Cellino, never one for half measures, froze the shot-stopper out, and his career has been on hiatus ever since.
That long period of exile is finally drawing to a close, with a move to Lazio on the verge of completion, and Marchetti was remarkably gracious towards Cellino and Co when discussing the dispute earlier this week. "There was a misunderstanding. I owe a great deal to Cagliari and President Cellino, who apologised to me personally. They believed in me and I will not forget that."
Fans of the Italian game will surely be glad to see the former Albinoleffe man return, but that's not to say it will all be plain sailing at Lazio. Although Fernando Muslera's move to Galatasaray has hit complications the Uruguayan is expected to leave this summer, and he's a hard act to follow, having matured from a bumbling bag of nerves to one of Serie A's finest 'keepers.
A year away from top-flight football is bound to have left Marchetti somewhat rusty, and the last time we saw him in action at World Cup 2010, his form was far from convincing. Deputising for the injured Buffon, he conceded four times from five shots on goal. Even in a team full of failures he stood out as one the biggest disappointments, and it remains to be seen whether the South African experience has left him scarred psychologically.
Marchetti arrives in Rome hoping to rebuild his reputation and return to La Nazionale, but like a boy that's been suspended from school, he returns to find a lot of work on his desk, and messrs Viviano and Sirigu at the top of the class.
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