14 years ago, on June 13, 2008, Davide Petrucci was born by the Daily Mail presented as the “new Totti”, after which the then 16-year-old moved to Manchester United. The youngster has already earned an impressive £100,000 per season – the Red Devils thought a lot of Petrucci.
14 years later, the Italian plays for Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the top Israeli division. How did this development of the supposed top talent come about?
Of the Giallorossi-Zeitung of AS Roma, Petrucci was titled in 2008 as “probably the best product of our youth sector”. A great future was predicted for the midfielder. And indeed, Sir Alex Ferguson was to become aware of this exciting personality at the time.
The English record champions immediately offered Petrucci a professional contract. He said: “It was hard to say no. United offered my father Stefano a job as a gardener. Then a month ago Roma offered me a contract too. I asked for some time to think it over as United had already made their offer, but they only gave me three days. Roma closed the door for me, United left it open to me.”
A dad job and a whopping £100,000 a season led to the decision that ‘the new Totti’ would move from Roma to Manchester United. But Petrucci, who was regularly called up to the Italian youth national teams until 2010, was not really to gain momentum with the Red Devils.
Manchester United: Petrucci was out for eight months – but found a friend in Pogba
Due to an unfortunate muscle injury, Petrucci was sidelined for eight months after a year and his start in Manchester United’s Under-18s. The timing could not have been more bitter, with the midfield all-rounder falling out just as Ferguson had included him in the Champions League knockout list.
After his injury, he continued with the United reserve. While Petrucci was part of the first-team squad from time to time, his professional debut was a long time coming. Numerous fans still believed in the youngster who was born in Rome. The English portal football deluxe called him “the future captain of Manchester United” in 2012.
Despite disagreements with Nani that led to such a heated argument that same year that the Portuguese beat the Italian, Petrucci also found friends at United. First and foremost: Paul Pogba.
The two were separated by just a year and a half and they shared both the home and the United reserve midfield. Together with Macheda, Davide even taught the Frenchman Italian. Then Pogba moved to Turin, where he gave his professional career a real boost.
Petrucci reported in an interview with Yahoo Sports 2015 on his friendship with Pogba: “It was fun living together, we taught each other our language. When Paul went to Italy he already knew some Italian, so people were wondering how that is for a Frenchman living in England was possible. We went to school together to learn English and when we got home I tried to learn French and teach him Italian. In football you have players from all over the world, so the more languages you know, the easier it is is to communicate with everyone.”
Petrucci did not make the breakthrough: the United dream burst
Petrucci’s dream of becoming a top performer at Manchester United began to fall apart in January 2013 when the club loaned him to Peterborough. There he made four appearances and one goal, which made him not recommended for higher tasks in Manchester.
Then Royal Antwerp should be the next stop, but here too the performance was not enough to convince the United managers. The final separation came in September 2014, a few weeks after his first professional game in preparation with the Red Devils first team.
The dream was shattered and Petrucci never made his competitive debut for Manchester United. At the age of 23 he realized himself that he needed a change and joined CFR Cluj in Romania. It continued via Caykur Rizespor in Turkey to Ascoli and Cosenza in Italy and finally to Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
There, the 31-year-old is regularly on the pitch as a defensive midfielder and stands out with a good passing game, high football intelligence and physical strength. Will he make it into a top 5 league again one day? It seems unlikely. In any case, Petrucci was never to become “the new Totti”.