Man United's Federico Macheda: Another in a Long List of Overhyped Youngsters

Jon NaylorSenior Analyst IApril 7, 2009

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 05:  Frederico Macheda of Manchester United is congratulated by Manager Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on April 5, 2009 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

When will the madness end?

Ever since the birth of the Premiership, media coverage has increased exponentially. This in turn has led to the celebrity culture surrounding players, not only within football but across all sports. Their careers are measured by column inches as much as honours.

This is all well and good for those old heads who have seen it all before and can take it in their stride, but for those just coming through, there is a tremendous amount of pressure placed upon them when their names are at the fingertips of those who inform a nation of fans.

The British press have gone to new levels with Man Utd's latest starlet, Federico Macheda.

The Daily Telegraph ran "Macheda hailed as new Cristiano Ronaldo." The tabloids were equally gushing as the press ran riot on Monday morning, with The Sun going so far as to check his Facebook status for quotes.

The lunacy was not reserved to the British media, though. Italy's most famous sporting newspaper, La Gazzetta dello Sport, wrote: "an Italian hero sinks the Villains." La Republica recalled: "Kiko received the ball in the area and created a masterpiece. Old Trafford in delirium. And all deserved for little Federico". 

To devote this amount of coverage to a player who has played 29 minutes for the first team is insanity.

The gravity of the goal and its implications on the title race is clear for all to see. It was truly a spectacular goal, but to place this amount of pressure on a 17-year-old's career is playing with fire in a way only the media know how.

Macheda is not the first for this to happen to, nor is he the first that has been burdened with unfair comparisons at the absolute beginning of his career.

Bruno Cheyrou, signed by Liverpool in 2002, was labelled by then manager Gerard Houllier as "the next Zinedine Zidane." He played 31 times in four seasons on the club's books before he was offloaded back to France.

Remember David Bellion? Held up by many as the next Thierry Henry? He wasn't either, although he is in a club with Ryan Babel, Theo Walcott, and Carlos Vela as young players compared to the great Frenchman.

For every player that handles and lives up to the hype, as Wayne Rooney has done, there are five that have fallen by the wayside, as Francis Jeffers did.

There are countless examples of these comparisons that place undue pressure on a young player to immediately live up to the inflated expectations of the masses.

Don't, however, think that football is the only culprit; the British media are too far-reaching for that.

Tom Daley, 14-year-old diver. Laura Robson, Wimbledon Girls' Junior champion. Rory McIlroy, Northern Irish golfer. All have achieved great things in the early stages of their careers. All have been put in the glare of public attention. All before their time.

These competitors might well become greats but it is truly unfair, and a sad reflection of the modern culture for immediate results, that they are built up too much before they have the chance to grow as players and people.

The British press are notorious iconoclasts. Let's hope that this doesn't affect the careers of the next generation of sportspeople and ruin them before they have even begun.