Incoming: Marco Davide Faraoni

Of all the players that we have acquired over the past two years, Faraoni has the best pedigree. While others have been snapped up by Udinese from smaller European or South American sides and then loaned out to lower tier clubs to gain experience, Marco has played for only two clubs: Inter and Udinese. And that’s in addition to his two outings on the bench for Lazio. In his two years of being a professional, he has finished 6th and 5th respectively in one of the most fabled leagues in world football.

Born in the calcio-mad (sometimes too much) region of Lazio to a father who played a high standard of amateur football, it was perhaps inevitable that Faraoni would find himself carving out a career in the game. He joined the books of S.S. Lazio before he turned ten, playing alongside Federico Macheda, playing primarily as a centre-back. Stefano Avincola, his youth team coach at the Biancocelesti, told ‘He was devastating as a central defender, with personality, great reading of trajectories, quick over short distances and strong: rare features in the same athlete – even when we tried him as a full-back, both right and left.’

So devastating was Faraoni that Lazio manager Delio Rossi called up the young defender, just two months after his sixteenth birthday, to the senior squad for a December 2007 match in Palermo. He returned to the youth team thereafter, but was clearly in the minds of the coaching staff. The following season he was once again called up to the bench for a February defeat to Fiorentina.

That summer, after two disappointing mid-table finishes in a row, Rossi was sacked and replaced by Davide Ballardini. The 17 year-old Faraoni was taking part in pre-season training with the first team, hoping to impress his new manager ahead of the 09/10 season, when he twisted his knee while turning, rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in the process.

He played no part in the season, but had clearly sufficiently impressed scouts from Inter, who had a bid for the defender turned down. And the end of the season, however, Faraoni’s contract was up, and he was lost to the Milan club for free.

He didn’t play at all for the Scudetto holders in the 2010/11 season. His luck was clearly out as, the summer after recovering from a cruciate injury, whilst holidaying in Egypt (no doubt visiting his ancient ancestors) he was struck down with a debilitating virus that kept him out of action for several months. He featured for the Primavera side during that campaign and was part of the squad that won the Viareggio Cup – the Italian equivalent to Britain’s Milk Cup.

The next year, Faraoni was a regular in Inter’s pre-season friendlies and made his first proper appearance in a blue and black shirt against the Nerazzurri’s fierce rivals AC Milan in the 2011/12 edition of Italy’s Community Shield, the Super Cup– bizarrely held in front of 70,000 spectators in Beijing’s National Stadium – coming on as a 63rd minute substitute to play on the left-wing.

A league debut came in November against Cagliari, though it was only four minutes. Four days later, Faraoni was playing in the Champions’ League Group Stages, again as a late sub, against Trabzonspor.

Fittingly, Faraoni’s first start, which came the next month and kicked off a run of five consecutive starts for the 20 year-old, was a 1-0 defeat to Udinese. By now, the Italian had completed his transition to the wing and was deployed on the right throughout the month while Javier Zanetti covered for Maicon, who was nursing an injury, at right back.

When the Brazilian returned to fitness, Faraoni was once more a reserve, though he did go on to make a further three league starts, with six more games off the bench. These appearances came all along the right flank, as Inter struggled for form – switching formations and personnel. Faraoni’s only professional goal to date came against Parma that January – a dipping volley from twenty yards that cannoned in off the crossbar.

It had taken some time, but Faraoni had broken into Serie A; Faraoni’s three year deal with Inter was due to expire at the end of the season, but the club saw fit to offer him a new contract that would run until 2016.

But the honeymoon was about to end. Claudio Ranieri, who had been Inter manager since the summer, was sacked at the back end of March after the team was dumped out of the Champions’ League at the hands of Marseille, and replaced by the young Andrea Stramaccioni. The new mister didn’t seem to fancy the young Italian, and Faraoni only made one appearance under him, in a meaningless late-season dead rubber.

Inter were blessed with depth on the right side of the pitch, with Maicon, the ageless Zanetti, Faraoni and Ricky Alvarez all contending for a spot on the pitch. They were not so well-stocked in goal. Julio Cesar, an erratic sort, was the youngest of the club’s three goalkeepers at 32, and it was decided that younger blood was needed in the position.

That younger blood was decided to be Samir Handanoviç, who had spent five years as the Udinese’s number one. In concordance with the Zebrette’s buy-low/sell-high strategy, Inter paid €11 million, along with 50% of the ownership of Faraoni, for the Slovenian keeper.

Awarded the number six shirt, Faraoni went straight into the line-up for Udinese’s opening league game of 2012, playing alongside Cristian Battocchio in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Fiorentina. He made five more league starts and came off the bench on five occasions, bringing his Serie A appearance tally to twenty five by the end of the season.

He was an ever-present in the season’s Europa League campaign, as the side went out at the group stages, losing four games on the bounce to finish bottom of a group containing Liverpool, BSC Young Boys and Anzhi Makhachkala.

In June, Udinese bought out the remainder of Faraoni’s Inter contract for a significant fee. Now, one month later, he’s signed a five year contract with Watford. Whether the fact that only half of his existence was transferred in June circumvents any rules about moving twice in one window (something which Javi Acuña is also guilty of) or whether I’m just misinformed about the rules is unclear; but what is obvious is that Watford have a player of considerable quality on their hands. Another one.

Faraoni is definitely a defensive-minded wing-back. At times last year we suffered from Ikechi Anya’s willing but unnatural defensive efforts. It seems that the Watford formation will be changing slightly to accommodate two strikers and an attacking midfielder in the Fabbrini/Forestieri mould, so more subdued wingers will be used to counter the unbalancing effect this will have on the midfield.

You sense that what Faraoni needs is regular football. At 21, he’s been at some big clubs, and has an old head on his young shoulders, but has not got the game time that his talent suggests he deserves. He has played at every single level of youth football for Italy, all the way up to under-21s, where he was competing with Davide Santon for the right back spot. At Watford, he’ll have competition from Ikechi Anya and Marco Cassetti, but both can play in other positions: Anya on the left, and Cassetti in the middle – so weekly football should not be difficult for the Italian to come by. His ability to play centre back, which he has done so only rarely since moving away from the position in his youth, would also come in handy if we were to experience an injury crisis like the one of last season.

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