Who is Simone Pafundi, the boy who has forged ahead in the national team: at the age of 14 he made his debut in the Under 17, last May Mancini called him for an internship and now he has been called up for matches against Albania and Austria. Born in 2006, he can already set a record.
Simone Pafundi, 16 years old, Udinese footballer called up by Mancini to the national team for the friendlies against Albania and Austria.
“We think he can be a great player in the future”. Robert Mancini so talk about Simone Pafundi, 16 years old, footballer who from the Udinese youth sector finds himself projected into the national team in a fool’s fingers. Last May he almost didn’t believe it when they told him he had done it called up for an internship in Azzurro. The coach’s call sent a shiver down his spine, it gave him the awareness of being on the right path but still a long way to go.
Yet the boy born in Monfalcone to parents who emigrated from the South to the North is somewhat used to forging ahead. Were he to play even for a handful of minutes against Albania or Austria he would become the youngest rookie footballer launched by the current selector (for now the ‘primacy’ belongs to Gnonto) and also the first 2006 to play in the Azzurro. Ironically, he was born in the year of the last World Cup won by Italy. As they say… it’s not true but I believe it.
Sixteen years old, attacking midfielder, left-handed: the characteristics of the boy who grew up in the Friulian youth sector.
“I summoned him because we’ve been following him for years”he added Mancini during the press conference in which he traced the future and gave meaning to Italy’s next two friendlies between Wednesday and Sunday. “We have matches to play to see and evaluate…”a clear signal in view of March (when the Euro 2024 qualifiers will begin) and the next path that should lead (finally) to the World Cup after two consecutive failures.
That’s why the recruiter leaves no stone unturned and broadens his horizons to those who can represent a resource for a not so distant future. This time it’s up to Pafundi to breathe a bit of the air of the greats. It happened to him at the age of 8 when he was playing with the 10-year-olds in the Unione Fincantieri Monfalcone. He did it in black and white, when (at the time Cioffi was still there) he was catapulted from Primavera to Serie A, making his debut last season in the match against Salernitana (about twenty minutes and a handful of added time at the Arechi, in support of the 0-4 which startled the grenades). A few months before him he had also signed his first professional contract and it seemed to him that he was touching the sky with a finger.
Pafundi made his debut in the Italian league last season, coming on as a substitute in Arechi’s match against Salernitana.
“We’ve seen great qualities from the Under national teams, we think he could be a great player in the future – the coach said -. We had already called him on an internship in June and we had good sensations”. As evidence of what trust there is in him there is a further consideration. “For Pafundi it’s a bit like for Zaniolo… when he came to us the first time nobody knew him and within three months he had become an accomplished player”.
Five appearances and 4 goals for the Under 17 team are the calling card of the little boy who, despite his size (he’s 166 cm tall) has a heart this big, two strong shoulders and enough talent to convince the coach, Corradi (former footballer ), to give him a chance even if he is 14 years old. It ended up that in the 3 qualifying matches for the next European Championship he scored twice against Kosovo, scored goals and assists against Finland and Greece. To Mancini it must have seemed like a light in the dark of these gray and bitter times.
Fabio Miretti, Giorgio Scalvini, Wilfried Gnonto, Leonardo Bonucci and Simone Pafundi during a training session for the national team.
What role does Pafundi play? He plays as an attacking midfielder but he can also play on the wing. He kicks with his left foot, has a low center of gravity and good dribbling. The opponent tackles it the way he does: he waits for it to arrive and… hey, he burns it with a shot from him or a quick touch of the ball because he likes the ball to travel fast. Better if glued to his foot.
Pafundi is a light in the dark of Italy, at 16 he bewitched Mancini: “Great qualities”