Australian teenager Cristian Volpato has signed a professional contract with Italian giants Roma, tying him to the club for three more years.
Volpato, from Sydney’s lower north shore, joined the Serie A club in January last year after a successful trial period. Despite a stop-start spell in the Italian club, thanks to COVID-19, the gifted 17-year-old has already impressed the Giallorossi bosses.
Last week the playmaker penned a new deal taking him through until 2024. Volpato has already been involved with the club’s reserves and trained with the first-team.
“Everything’s perfect,” he told The World Game.
“Even though we haven’t played a lot of games, they said to me they were going to wait until June to sign it to see me play more games. But I played in some trial games, against the first-team as well, and they thought I was up to it so they offered me it.
“The highlight was definitely playing against the first-team. I trained with the first-team, we actually played a little game, I was marking Pedro.
“That was the best experience of my life. Seeing Dzeko, Mkhitaryan… Wow.
On the weekend, Volpato started and notched an assist in the Under-18s' season-opening 3-0 victory over Parma. The number 10 is hoping to make his mark in the reserve side in the coming weeks.
“A couple of days before, I was in Sardinia for the bench against Caligari [in the Primavera competition],” he said.
“I’m always on the bench, but I’m just waiting for that moment to go on. It’s just so fast. The intensity just doesn’t drop. And they love football here.
“When I first made my debut, last year, it was just such a difference. Just the way they move the ball, how fast and strong they are, it’s just next-level. I’m still getting used to it. But the more games I play the more I’ll get the hang of it.”
A talented goal-scorer and creator, Volpato was born and raised in Sydney and showed promise as youngster. With Italian heritage on both sides of his family, his love affair with football started early.
“All I can remember is my grandfather, my nonno, he was the first person I kicked a ball with when I was four, five years old,” he said.
“I started playing at Abbotsford juniors and I scored 25 goals in my game, and some parent asked to go to the AC Milan academy. Ever since then I’ve been playing.”
Volpato was coached at the AC Milan Sydney academy by former Milan and Marconi midfielder Andrea Icardi and then by Tony Basha at the Australasian Football Academy.
“Tony has had a big impact on me,” Volpato said. “He told me everything, what to expect and stuff.”
He spent time with Western Sydney Wanderers’ academy but surprisingly was let go in at the end of 2019.
“Cristian came to me a year ago since being told by Western Sydney he wasn’t good enough,” Basha said.
“I basically took him under my wing at the academy. He needed some adjustments to his game and personality. He’s worked his backside off every day, with 6am sessions.
“When I saw him I knew he was a superstar, so I rang up contacts at Roma and set up the trial. I knew he could make it. I am proud of him and how he has conducted himself and applied himself.”
The teenager might have been let go by the Wanderers but he has found a home at Roma. And his sparking skills have also caught the eye of the Italian federation, with Volpato eligible to represent Italy.
“After my first game the Italian national side was interested, and then when I came back the Roma game was on YouTube,” he said.
“Apparently they watched the first 25 minutes of it and wanted me.”
Volpato has yet to receive any contact from Football Australia, but admits he has made no decision on which country to align with.
“It depends, Italy would be easier to play with as it’s easier with the travel,” he said.
“And it’s Europe, this is where you want to be. But I mean Australia, I was born there, so I can’t cut off both of them. I’m open to both of them.”