Dubai: Mateo Retegui, a 23-year-old Argentine footballer, has quickly made a name for himself on the international scene for Italy.
He has scored in his first two appearances for the Azzurri but has never lived or played in Italy and he cannot speak the language.
Retegui caught the attention of Italy’s national team coach, Roberto Mancini, who was forced to look beyond his usual pool of strikers due to injuries and lack of options.
Retegui’s eligibility to play for Italy comes through his maternal grandfather, making him a dual citizen.
Currently on loan at Club Atletico Tigre in Argentina from Boca Juniors, Retegui has an impressive track record with 29 goals in 51 games for Tigre, including six in eight games this season.
His recent form prompted Mancini to call him up for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against England and Malta, where he scored in both games, becoming only the fourth ever player to score in their first two games for Italy.
Mancini’s decision to include Retegui goes against his previous belief that only players born in Italy should play for the national team.
However, Mancini acknowledges that the world has changed, and every national team in Europe and the world generally have players coming from abroad or originally from other nations.
Retegui’s success has also sparked transfer rumours, with Premier League clubs Brighton and Crystal Palace reportedly interested in his services, and Inter Milan’s assistant sporting director, Dario Baccin, reportedly watching him in action during Italy’s win over Malta.
Off the field, Retegui is a dog lover and is represented by Italy legend Francesco Totti’s agency, CT10 Management. His father, Carlos, played hockey for Argentina at three different Olympic games, and Retegui himself is said to have played as a child.
Retegui’s emergence as a potential star for Italy highlights the changing landscape of international football, where players can represent multiple countries based on their citizenship and eligibility rules.
His success also shows that talent can emerge from unexpected places, and coaches may need to broaden their search for players beyond their usual pool of candidates.