Fabio Quagliarella: Not taking success for granted
For all their protests, Udinese accept that Fabio Quagliarella will eventually move onto a bigger club. The new Italy international is Serie A's big success story from last season, with his spectacular goals and modest manner winning over fans across the country. Quagliarella has been mentioned as a target for Europe's biggest clubs, including AC Milan, Juventus and Manchester United. Claims from his agent, Silvio Pagliari, of United's interest initially raised eyebrows in England, but it shouldn't surprise that Sir Alex Ferguson has admiration for Quagliarella - given the way he was battled back from early rejection to establish himself as one of Europe's hottest new talents. After initially making his Serie A debut as a 16 year-old with Torino in 2000, it wasn't until two seasons ago with Ascoli that Quagliarella was able to get a full season of top-flight football under his belt. Even then, after scoring just three goals, Ascoli couldn't get rid of him quickly enough, offloading the forward to Sampdoria and Udinese in a co-ownership agreement. However, last season everything came together for Quagliarella. As Sampdoria general manager Beppe Marotta put it: "We gave him the space to be himself. There was no pressure, no expectations." Suddenly the goals flowed - and in a spectacular fashion. Samp's approach allowed Quagliarella to shake-off over ten years of disappointment and homesickness - and they were rewarded with fourteen goals and a healthy profit after selling their 50 per cent of his registration to Udinese in June. Spotted as a youngster playing locally in Castellammare di Stabia, Quagliarella moved away to Torino as a 13 year-old. Regularly he would be on the phone to his parents seeking their support as he struggled with life in Turin. "I remember one night," recalled Quagliarella, "when I called home at three in the morning. I was in tears, I didn't think I could stick it out. "Mum simply told me, 'if you want to change your mind we're here for you'. That was all I needed to hear." Quagliarella chose to battle on and was rewarded with a senior debut for Torino less than three years later. However, two years on he was being offloaded to Serie C1 Chieti. A season later he was in Serie C2 with little Florentia Viola before he finally discovered his scoring touch back at Chieti 12 months later, hitting 17 goals. That campaign won him a return to Torino for season 2004/05 and a move up to Serie B. Quagliarella impressed, hitting a respectable eight goals and establishing himself as Torino's prime centre-forward. But money troubles forced the Granata to release him to Ascoli in a co-ownership agreement. Now with Udinese, the constant flux in his early career has made a significant impact on Quagliarella's outlook. While flattered to be mentioned with some of Europe's biggest clubs, he has always maintained: "For me, the key to success this season has been continuity. "If I am going to continue to improve, I need to play regularly. Otherwise, all the sacrifice will have been for nothing. "Of course, I would like one day to be playing for Europe's biggest trophies. But for now, I was happy in Genoa [with Sampdoria] and I will be happy in Udine." On the international stage, success at Sampdoria led to a tidal wave of media pressure for Roberto Donadoni to call him into Italy's team. An end-of-season gamble by the Azzurri coach was rewarded as Quagliarella struck both goals in their crucial Euro2008 qualifier victory over Lithuania. "He had an excellent game that evening," recalled Donadoni recently. "It was great to see Fabio score two goals of such emphatic quality." In keeping with his infectious personality, Quagliarella's embrace of Donadoni and his Italy teammates at the final whistle was quickly celebrated by even the most cynical of Italy's media. "His gesture was his way of thanking everyone who welcomed him into the setup," added Donadoni. Given his hard-knocks story, Quagliarella will be one millionaire footballer who'll never take his success for granted.