Our Montreal Impact correspondent Gregory Caltabanis caught up with Bologna loanee Matteo Mancosu after training on Wednesday and spoke to the 31-year-old.
“I have no regrets about my experience in Italy,” Mancosu bluntly explained, as Montreal’s October winds flapped about on an otherwise beautiful day at Centre Nutrilait. After failing to impress in his debut season in Serie A with both Bologna and Carpi, the striker made the decision to come to Major League Soccer. Since making the switch, Mancosu has enjoyed success scoring three goals and assisting a further three in just six starts.
“Leaving Italy at 31 year’s old isn’t easy but I wanted an experience in a different league,” said Mancosu. “It was a good time for me to leave Italy and try something different,” added the Impact striker. Over the course of his career, Mancosu has gotten the reputation of being a lower league bomber. In the 2013-2014 season, he finished as Serie B’s capocannoniere with 26 goals in 40 appearances with Trapani. Before joining Trapani, the player had stints at Atletico Calcio, Nuorese, Villacidrese, Latina and Vigor Lamezia, where he consistently put up impressive numbers. Mancosu’s rise up Italy’s ladder is something he is proud of today. “I’m happy with my career as I made it all the way from the bottom progressing up the levels slowly. It was hard for me since I didn’t come from a well known youth academy,” said Mancosu. “The career I had in Italy is the one I deserved,” added the striker.
The former Bologna man played for Scuola Calcio Johannes’ youth team growing up, which is hardly a household name in the peninsula. Due to this, he had a difficult time moving up the various divisions in Italy. When he finally made it up to Serie A, Mancosu struggled with two goals in 21 appearances. While his experience in Italy’s top division was short-lived, it’s something Mancosu reflects on with pride. “It was a really nice experience but a hard one at that because we started the season poorly at Bologna,” said Mancosu. “The league is hard because there are many world class players. There are about 20-30 players who are a notch above the rest. The guys who play in Serie A are largely normal guys. When things aren’t going good for them, they suffer,” said Mancosu.
In Montreal, Mancosu finds himself playing under an Italian-speaking manager in Mauro Biello along with other Italian speaking teammates in the form of Marco Donadel and Ignacio Piatti. This made his transition from Serie A to North America a rather seamless one. With the Impact closing in on a playoff spot in their last two games of the season, Mancosu has been in fine form. In his last two games, the player has directly contributed to two goals. Despite this, he still might find himself on the bench in favour of Didier Drogba, come playoff time. However, his relationship with the Ivorian is one that he views as beneficial. “You never stop learning in football, especially from someone like Didier,” said Mancosu. “I’ve watched him on TV. He’s won the Champions League and various league titles with Chelsea. Having him close by is an honour,” stated Mancosu. The 31-year-old striker also shared an anecdote of the legendary Chelsea striker from last game. “At the end of the first half in Orlando, he came up to me and gave me advice on how to make my runs. I’d like to thank him for that,” said Mancosu.
Having played in most of Italy’s lower divisions, Mancosu is no stranger to passionate fans, something he misses from back home. “The fans are definitely more welcoming there but that’s normal because football is much more closely followed there than here,” said Mancosu. Despite this, the striker believes that Major League Soccer is on the right path. “It’s a nice league. There are a number of world class players here like Pirlo, Lampard, Gerrard and Villa. It’s a very physical league, where the compactness of a team makes the biggest difference,” added Mancosu.
While the league has taken positive strides in this respect, the technical aspect in Major League Soccer, at times, is lacking. Mancosu, however, thinks this will soon change. “Yes, the technical level is inferior to Italy but it’s improving a lot. A few players here could play in Italy,” said Mancosu. “The league is destined to grow and a number of good players will come play here shortly,” stated the 31-year-old. A perfect example of that is Sebastian Giovinco. The Italian decided to join Toronto FC, the Impact’s rivals, at the peak of his powers at the age of 28. The Atomic Ant could have easily continued plying his trade in Europe but instead became a center piece of the league. It just so happens that Giovinco’s Toronto FC take on the Montreal Impact in ten days time. With a playoff berth on the line, Mancosu will be raring to go. “We deserve to be in the playoffs and I think we’re going to be a dangerous team in them,” said the striker.
After the season comes to a close, Mancosu and the Montreal Impact will have a tough decision to make. To stay in Major League Soccer in the off-season or return to Serie A, a division he couldn’t quite perform in on his first attempt. “I could return to Italy in January but we will decide along with the club in December,” said Mancosu. “I’d be happy to stay here and hope the feeling is mutual,” added the former Carpi hitman on his future. With his future very much hanging in the balance, it remains to be seen whether Mancosu will take another stab at Italy’s first division.