Marco Macina ‘could have been like Messi!’ But instead of conquering the world, the Milan super talent stopped at just 23 years old.
Ever since Lionel Messi – along with Cristiano Ronaldo – has dominated world football, up-and-coming talent has been dubbed the new Messi over the years.
However, if you draw the comparison with a player who was active well before the Argentine, that is at least curious. But when Roberto Mancini talks about his former companion Marco Macina, he can’t help it.
When Italy’s current national coach Mancini visited the youth department of FC Bologna, he made it clear to the up-and-coming talents how important will and ambition are in order to make it to the top.
Mancini on Macina: ‘Could have been like Messi’
“Technique and personality are important, but by no means everything. It also took me a while to realize how important hard work is,” said the now 57-year-old, who turned professional in Bologna. “If I hadn’t realized that, I would have been as lost as Macina. He was in my year and we were teammates. In the Under-15s he was one of the best players in the world, he could have been like Messi. I’ll never have a player again seen with his talent.”
So how did the name Macina come to be known to few today? According to Mancini, “he didn’t like training and so went astray.” Macina himself, born in San Marino, defended himself against the allegations.
In his opinion, unfortunate circumstances played the main role in his “fall”. It all started when I was young, because instead of going to Bologna I was supposed to go to Inter Milan.
Infection prevented Macina’s trial at Inter
“The father of a teammate recommended me to the Nerazzurri, so I was invited to try out. But I couldn’t play because of an infection,” he explained in 2015 sports live. “Unfortunately, contact was lost after that and I went to Bologna. If I had gone to Inter then, my life might have changed forever. That’s not meant to be against Bologna, but Inter is a different house number!”
In the 1981/82 season, Macina and Mancini were both called up to the professional squad there, both were just 17 years old. While Mancini was a regular in the season that ended in relegation, Macina made only eight appearances and failed to live up to expectations.
As a result, the two would go their separate ways. Mancini went to Sampdoria and won several titles there, while Macina sought promotion back to Serie A with Bologna.
However, the season ended in disaster, because after three changes of coach you were even passed through to Serie C. He ended up at Parma on loan to Arezzo, where he would play his best season as a professional to date. The offensive player was on the field in 26 games with the second division and was involved in seven goals. The big AC Milan noticed him.
“Things were going well in Parma and in November 1984 Milan bought me because they had injury problems up front,” said Macina. “But I couldn’t switch immediately because two changes in one season weren’t possible. Nils Liedholm [damaliger Milan-Trainer; d. Red.] was crazy about me, I would have played a lot.”
But when he was finally allowed to change, the competition at the Rossoneri was tough, but Liedholm still helped the young attacker to ten appearances, “but due to the many injuries in the previous season I would have played a lot more there beforehand,” Macina was annoyed afterwards.
Only Macina’s start at Milan was promising
Instead, the operating times gradually became less and less, Macina was accused of lacking discipline, he is said to have often let off steam in Milan’s nightlife. Macina herself doesn’t want to know anything about that to this day.
“What mistakes did I make? I probably just lacked luck in the crucial moments, nothing more. It’s not true that I’ve been to the discos too often,” he defended himself in 2020 in the Gazzetta dello Sport. “I had this reputation back then, now at 56 I could admit it without any problems. I didn’t do anything wrong, but at that time reasons had to be found why such a great talent didn’t make the breakthrough.”
Macina is playing his last game at the age of 23
When Silvio Berlusconi took over at Milan in 1986, Macina’s time more or less ended. He was loaned to Reggiana and Ancona, but despite a promising start in the fashion city, he never got back on his feet. His contract expired in 1988 and he turned down several offers from smaller clubs in the hope of getting even better offers. That didn’t happen, however, which is why he was to play his last game at the end of 1987, at the age of 23.
“I should have proved myself again in Serie C back then,” he regrets his decision today. “But at that moment I was mentally devastated. I made a mistake and after that nobody was interested in me anymore.” He has now completely turned his back on football and works in tourism in his home country of San Marino. Nevertheless, he fondly remembers his long-time companion Mancini.
“Actually, I was better than him, he always said so himself. Until we were 17, I was one of the best players in the world in my year. That may sound arrogant to many, but it was the truth,” concluded Macina .