Socceroos manager Graham Arnold has revealed he spoke three times on the phone yesterday with 18-year-old rising star Cristian Volpato in an effort to convince the youngster to represent Australia at the upcoming World Cup, only to be rejected.
Volpato was born in Australia but is also eligible to represent Italy, a nation he has already played internationally for at the junior level.
The teenager was rejected by Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers before being picked up by Italian heavyweights Roma, and has rapidly risen through the ranks to their senior side, coached by legendary manager Jose Mourinho.
A creative and dangerous playmaker, he has starred off the bench in recent weeks, with Mourinho declaring: “We have full confidence in Volpato, we believe he can become a key player for us.”
Given his dual eligibility, Arnold hoped to convince him to pull on the green and gold in Qatar – a move which would effectively seal his services for the remainder of his career.
And, of course, Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup, handing Australia a huge bonus in their pursuit of the in-demand talent.
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But Arnold revealed after announcing his squad on Tuesday that Volpato had spurned the call-up in a late-night phone conversation.
Asked how long he tried to convince the prodigious talent to represent Australia, Arnold replied: “Right up until probably 11pm – time here – last night. It’s not my decision. I spoke to Cristian yesterday three times. Before that I’d spoken to him on numerous occasions.
“I pretty much told him yesterday he was in the 26 man squad. He wanted to go away and think about it. He wanted to speak to the people around him that helped guide his career. And he came back last night and declined the offer to come and play for Australia at the World Cup. That’s his decision at the end of the day.
“I’d rather look at the young boys that we’ve got in and young Australian boys who have come into this camp, and look forward to the future.
“Cristian, he feels at this time of his career that it’s such a massive decision, and at this moment in time he doesn’t want to make that massive decision, which is all his right.”
Volpato’s agent is Roma and Italy legend Francesco Totti, who famously scored the controversial penalty that knocked Australia out of the 2006 World Cup. His guidance – as well as Mourinho’s – could prove crucial in swaying the youngster’s allegiances.
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Speaking on Fox Sports News, Arnold said Volpato could still play for the Socceroos in the future.
“Cristian is a great kid,” he said. “It’s an extremely difficult decision for the kid to make and he’s got people around him who have given him advice.
“I spoke to him late last night, he was the last phone call I was waiting for. I told him pretty much he was going to get selected in the 26-man squad and gave him a few hours to think about it. He came back and just doesn’t feel that at this moment in time as an 18-year-old he wants to make this big decision when there are two countries he can play for in Australia and Italy.
“He made that decision and he declined our opportunity to come and play for Australia at the World Cup. It doesn’t mean that he won’t do that in the future. He’s a young kid, he’s just starting out in his journey of football, he’s a beautiful kid and I understand the tough decision he had to make and we just move on.”