National coach Graham Arnold will refuse to give Cristian Volpato a Socceroos cap solely to ensure the former Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers youth team attacker doesn’t play for Italy.
Deemed not good enough for A-League football by both Sydney clubs, Volpato went to Italy to trial with Serie A club Roma.
The move was a masterstroke, with Volpato, now 18, earning a deal with Roma in January last year.
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And having impressed Roma coach, former Chelsea and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, Volpato – who was born in NSW but who’s heritage is Italian – made his Serie A debut earlier this month.
His rise has led to him being on the verge of a call-up to Italy’s under-19 team.
Should Arnold pick Volpato in the Socceroos squad for the January-February World Cup qualifiers against Vietnam and Oman – and give him game time – the teenage sensation will be tied to Australia forever.
However, Arnold doesn’t want to cheapen the Socceroos jersey by handing it to someone just to ensure he doesn’t play for another nation.
“I’ve had this experience now with a number of players over the years,” Arnold said.
“Cristian has a big choice to make in life and his heart will tell him what’s right.
“I’m not a person that’s going to bring him into camp, cap him and give him one minute on the field just to control the rest of his career.
“Cristian’s doing great at club football, and that’s fantastic, but to play for your nation is so special that your heart will tell you what’s right and what’s wrong.
“When he puts on an Italian shirt, and when he puts on an Australian shirt, what feels right? Which badge feels right? That’s the one Cristian will choose.
“It’s not my decision whether he plays for Australia or Italy – it’s his decision. He has to live with that for the rest of his life.”
Volpato told BeINSports he was focused on getting more match time with Roma rather than worrying about which nation he would represent.
“I’m just trying to get more Serie A minutes, but of course if the Socceroos call me, maybe it’s a different conversation,” Volpato said.
“It’s not an easy one in many ways: I was born and raised in Australia but my blood is Italian. It’s hard.”
Despite picking up just two points from their past three qualifiers, the Socceroos’ 2022 World Cup destiny remains in their own hands.
“We’ve got everything in our own hands. The players understand that, I understand it. It’s time to step up,” Arnold said.