AS Roma’s teen sensation Cristian Volpato has broken his silence on the international tug-of-war that led to his decision to turn down a Socceroos call-up for the upcoming FIFA World Cup.
After unveiling his 26-man squad to go to Qatar on Tuesday, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold revealed he had spoken to Volpato, an 18-year-old rising star in Italy’s Serie A, three times the day before announcing his squad to urge him to pledge his allegiance to Australia and take up the invitation to play for the Socceroos in Qatar.
Volpato, who was born in Sydney and played youth football for Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers before moving to his country of heritage to join AS Roma, turned down the approach, leading to speculation that he was turning his back on his country of birth to play for Italy, who did not qualify for the showpiece tournament in Qatar.
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However, that’s not the case, according to Volpato, who posted on his Instagram story to dispute speculation that his choice had been made.
“I have seen lots of speculation about decisions I have supposedly taken at international level: the truth is that I am still just at the start of my professional career and I am totally focused on continuing that process at Roma,” the post said.
“Making any sort of rushed decision about my international future at this early stage risks being extremely premature.
“There will be plenty of time for me to take the decision that feels right for me, but right now I know my focus needs to be on continuing to work hard each and every day in order to continue improving as a player. For now, it’s time to focus on the game against Sassuolo!”
That post came after former Socceroos Craig Foster and Mark Bosnich backed Volpato’s decision to snub Australia.
The 18-year-old is already logging regular minutes for AS Roma under legendary manager Jose Mourinho and has joined AS Roma legend Francesco Totti’s agency. Volpato described the Italian football icon as a “big brother”.
Despite being rejected by Volpato, Bosnich urged those involved in the Socceroos set-up to not completely shut the door on the young gun.
“I can understand it from both sides,” he told Stan Sports FC.
“I think (asking him to play for Australia) three times is more than generous, you can’t force them to, if you don’t want to, you don’t want to. The fact that Graham has asked is a good thing.
“From Cristian’s perspective … completely understand as well, he wants to keep his options open.
“There will be a lot of people saying, ‘Well if he wants to do that he can never play for Australia again’, and I say, ‘Never say never’.
“He’s a very young boy. He’s in a big world over there. He’s got a lot of experienced people including his manager (Jose) Mourinho and Francesco Totti advising him. Just leave him be.
“If he doesn’t want to play for the Socceroos, OK, that’s his right. If he does, absolutely great, but we move on.”
Foster also suggested that any criticism of Volpato for holding out hope of playing for Italy was off the mark, given Australia often benefits from players with dual nationalities.
“Australia has made a real habit of utilizing players from all around the world, and not just those who have settled here, but those who are abroad and on occasions have never even been here,” he told Stan Sports FC.
“From time to time there are people who have those dual loyalties who are going to choose elsewhere. Good on him, I hope he goes great.
“We are a beautiful, proud, multicultural country, and that means people respect not just Australia, but their cultural history and these are choices they have every right to make and we should respect it. It’s actually fantastic.”
Foster added that Volpato could yet choose to represent Australia later on in his career, particularly if he is unable to break into Italy’s national setup.
“He’s very young and players make a lot of decisions they regret later on when they are very young,” he said.
“He will be listening to all the advisors at the moment, and as he grows, if he doesn’t end up playing for Italy in the interim, then he can actually start to make his own decisions.
“He will be at the moment more influenced by those around him giving him that advice and saying, ‘You have the possibility to (play for Italy)’.
“That might not come to fruition, so give him time and we just wish him the best.”
“He’s at such an early stage in his career. We need to give him time and let him breathe,” Bosnich added.
“Maybe re-visit the idea in a couple of years’ time, but if he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t want to.”
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