ROME, May 2 – Teenage striker Federico Macheda's staggering impact at Manchester United has sparked a raging debate in Italy on how to stem the exodus of the country's brightest talents.Macheda’s startling goal-scoring start to life as a United senior player has fans here wondering what’s so wrong with their own football that their best young players move away.
Once the predator, Italy is now feeling what it’s like to be the prey and the economic muscle of the English Premier League is largely responsible for that.
It was for financial reasons that Macheda left Lazio to sign for United while just 16, but now Italy want UEFA to intervene to stop other young players being prised away.
According to Ciro Ferrara, a former rugged defender with Juventus but now head of the club’s junior section, it’s not Italy’s fault that top players are being poached.
"You can’t talk about a failure of Italian football, international rules have changed," he said.
"(UEFA president Michel) Platini has to intervene, UEFA have to stop the exodus of our young footballers to foreign shores.
"Players are often taken away by paying off their families but the rules shouldn’t allow it."
Macheda is not the only young player to have been tempted by United as they also pinched midfielder Davide Petrucci off Lazio’s city rivals AS Roma.
But according to another player seduced by United, it is Italian clubs who are at fault for not giving young players enough of a chance.
Giuseppe Rossi left Parma for United at 17 before being sold to Spaniards Villarreal. But for spending half a season on loan back at Parma in 2006/07, the 22-year-old has spent his entire senior career playing outside the country he represents at international level.
"Why don’t I play in Italy? It’s not my fault. Clubs make their decisions and I make my own," he said.
"The important thing is to show off your skills in front of a big crowd. And when you play you have a chance to be seen.
"Italian football is changing, giving more chances to young players. That’s the right decision because the talent is there.
"In England and Spain everything is different, they have more patience. Barcelona have three or four 20 year olds in their first team."
An example of the apparent unwillingness to give youth a chance can be found at AC Milan, who last season saw the emergence of two teenage forwards – Brazilian Pato and Italian Alberto Paloschi.
But while Pato has gone on to become an established first team regular, Paloschi was allowed to leave for Serie B Parma during the close season.
With marquee signings Ronaldinho and Andrei Shevchenko failing to make an impact, and Marco Borriello injured, Milan have instead turned to veteran 35-year-old forward Filippo Inzaghi to lead the line.
In fairness, Inzaghi has been enjoying an Indian summer to his career with 10 goals in his last seven matches, but Milan have been criticised for not taking a chance on youth and kept hold of Paloschi rather than Inzaghi.
It may not be a bad thing for his career, though, as he has seen plenty of first team action in Serie B, scoring nine goals in 32 appearances.
He may well be plying his trade regularly in Serie A next season and getting more playing time than he would have done with Milan.
But even so, Ferrara thinks teams in Italy need to take more risks on young players.
"It’s a mistake not to spend much money on the youth system and give players a chance to emerge, even to go on the pitch and make mistakes," he said.
"It takes time for them to develop. But teams have an obligation to win and they choose a less risky path, but even that doesn’t guarantee victories."