Becoming an instant sensation with his goal on his debut against Aston Villa, Federico Macheda then disappeared off the Manchester United radars, spending more time on loan than at the club.
During his five years at Old Trafford, the Italian striker got to know Sampdoria, Queens Park Rangers, VfB Stuttgart, Doncaster and Birmingham before going to Cardiff on a free transfer.
Each of these spells last six months or so, stopping the player from getting any kind of continuity, which he now has found in Greece with Panathinaikos.
The 30-year-old sat down with Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday to look back on his career, which really kicked off when Sir Alex Ferguson decided he wanted to work with him.
Macheda explained: “Manchester United came to town to play in the Champions League against AS Roma. One of their scouts called my parents. ‘Sir Alex Ferguson is waiting for you, he wants to talk to you’. So, suddenly, my parents got anxiety.
“I was in retreat with the U15 national team, only mum and dad went to the match. ‘We want your son to join us’, decided the coach handing them the United number 9 jersey. On the back of it was my name, it was impossible to say no”.
Along the way, he got to meet a very young Paul Pogba, who is around two years younger than him, and the two struck up a friendship alongside another teammate.
He continued: “Paul and I were neighbours. He often came to eat with me and Davide Petrucci, another Italian in Manchester at the time, but I didn’t cook. At most, I could make toast. After two months, my family moved to England to keep me company. My mother took care of preparing lunches and dinners. Pogba is in love with Italian cuisine and was crazy about her potato omelette”.
However, as we explained above, being at Manchester United surrounded by stars quickly turned a dream into reality, as Macheda saw his pathway blocked by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez.
His career stalled, and Gazzetta asked him what went wrong: “Being always on loan for six months… I wouldn’t do it again because there is no time to adapt and perform at your best in an environment, in a new context. Plus, it demoralises you for the next adventures. I was difficult to find stimuli again and believe in myself.
“The negative experiences had made me lose all the personal certainties acquired at the beginning of my career. Little by little, with physical and mental work, I have overcome this phase and started again”.
Signing for Panathinaikos in 2018, Macheda is contracted to the Greek club until 2023, having made 102 appearances for them so far, scoring 36 goals and assisting another nine.