Now considered the natural heir to Gianluigi Buffon, 27-year-old goalkeeper Federico Marchetti had to toil away for six long years in Italy’s lower leagues before making a name for himself. His patience and dedication are finally paying off, though in truth he is anything but a keeper by vocation. In fact, the athletic Venice native with the impressive tattoo collection actually started out in football as a striker. “I got stuck up front because I had a good shot,” he said. “The day I went in goal I was won over, though.”
Marchetti first began capturing people’s attention at the age of 23 in 2006, while wearing the gloves for modest Serie B outfit Albinoleffe. He had made the goalkeeper’s spot his own in the space of less than a season and that achievement brought him onto the radar of Italy coach Marcello Lippi, attuned as ever to the rising talents in the Italian game. The No1 eventually cracked Serie A with Cagliari in 2008, then aged 25, and he continued winning admirers for his powerful aerial interventions and confident ball handling, not to mention his spectacular and courageous surges off his line to thwart opposition forwards. Those qualities made Marchetti the revelation of the 2008/09 season and marked the start of his incredible rise.
Lippi handed him a first senior Italy cap on 6 July 2009, the newcomer having never turned out for his country at any level, and Buffon was the first to congratulate him on what seemed a surprise selection to some outsiders. “Gigi is my idol,” responded Marchetti. “I always try to copy things from him, like his positioning and his attitude.” Further accolades followed when he was voted Italy’s Goalkeeper of the Year on 22 October 2009, but despite interest from the country’s leading clubs Marchetti decided to stay on for another season at Cagliari. For the world champions, he is now firmly installed as first in line to Buffon’s throne.