Two seasons ago Federico Macheda was viewed as the future strike sensation at Manchester United. As a 17-year-old, Macheda scored what is believed to have been the title-winning goal in 2009 against Aston Villa in injury time.
Despite being only 17, Macheda was shaping up to be the real deal. The big-game mentality and composure that often evades younger players, appeared to be one of the many footballing abilities Macheda possessed.
Fast forward two years, and Macheda has failed to the deliver the type of impact many fans thought he would. At 19 years old, Macheda finds himself in a similar position he was in when he first arrived at United.
Arriving as a 17-year-old, Macheda was at the bottom of the totem pole. A lineup featuring Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov. Macheda found himself being the fourth-choice striker.
The following year, Carlos Tevez signed for Manchester City and was replaced by Michael Owen. Macheda remained fourth choice. The presence of fellow young strikers Mame Biram Diouf, and Danny Welbeck also served as no guarantee of playing time for the young Italian.
Macheda appeared to be on the right track last season, but prior to the World Cup, Javier Hernandez was signed. Diouf and Welbeck were loaned to Blackburn and Sunderland at the start of the season, but Macheda remained at United. Following the prominence of Hernandez, Macheda quickly went from fourth, to fifth-choice striker.
With chances scarce to come by, United decided a loan would benefit both the club and the player. Macheda was loaned to Serie A club Sampdoria. Sampdoria had qualified for the Champions League the following year, and were looking to finish strong in the Serie A on the heels of some new talent.
Macheda benefited from the move, and featured in the first 12 games under coach Mimmo Di Carlo. When star strikers Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Cassano departed to Inter and AC Milan, Macheda was going to be even more heavily relied upon.
What happened next put the brakes on Macheda's development significantly.
Mimmo Di Carlo was sacked and replaced by a more traditional coach, Alberto Cavasin. Cavasin appeared to have little plans for Macheda and has so far only used him for 148 minutes.
Last week Sampdoria played their last game in the Serie A against Palermo and will now be fighting for promotion in the Serie B.
In a side that struggled for goals, 13 goals in their last 21, Macheda has not been able to break in the starting IX. Despite looking sharp while given the chance, what occurred at Sampdoria must certainly be viewed as a worst case scenario for Sir Alex and the coaching staff at Manchester United.
Macheda, when given the chance, played with desire, competitiveness and creativity, but failed to improve on his composure, technique and decision making while at Sampdoria. Macheda is now at a point where his career is at the crossroads.
Kiko Macheda has little chance at dislodging the strike partnership of Hernandez-Rooney, and the likelihood of him being placed above Dimitar Berbatov is also unlikely.
Regardless if Michael Owen leaves this summer (officially) the return of Diouf and Welbeck, who have been gaining valuable playing time in the EPL, certainly will not increase the likelihood of Macheda rising in the pecking order.
His current club Sampdoria are reportedly not interested in acquiring the services of Macheda on a permanent basis, and rumors linking Macheda with his former club Lazio have dwindled.
Sampdoria was supposed to reinvigorate Macheda's career. Provide Macheda with the experience and skills that would genuinely threaten United's striker pecking order. However, should Macheda return, he will likely remain in a similar situation he has been in for the few seasons: good, but not good enough.
At only 19, Macheda still has plenty of potential. However, will Sir Alex Ferguson give him a chance at United to prove his worth? Would a loan move be better suited to the young Italian, or is he not worth keeping on the Manchester United books?