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Sport

Caputo reflects on what might have been after Italy debut at 33

(Reuters) - Francesco Caputo was thrilled to finally pull on an Italy shirt at the age 33 but there was also a tinge of regret at what might have been after a career spent largely in the lower divisions of Italian football.

FILE PHOTO - Serie A - U.S. Sassuolo v Juventus - Mapei Stadium - Citta del Tricolore, Reggio Emilia, Italy - July 15, 2020 Sassuolo's Francesco Caputo celebrates scoring their third goal, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

The Sassuolo forward became Italy’s second-oldest debutante when he started Wednesday’s friendly against Moldova and needed only 23 minutes to score his first international goal in the 6-0 win.

“To start out with a goal in the blue jersey after a very long journey is as good as it gets,” he said. “I am very happy with what I have done and I will try to continue on this path.”

Yet, there was also a sensation that he could have made more of his potential and that he paid for his loyalty to his beloved Bari.

Caputo helped Bari win promotion to the top flight back in 2008-09 but was excluded from their plans for the following season and instead loaned to Salernitana, which meant that he remained in Serie B.

He finally made 12 Serie A appearances for Bari in the 2010-11 season only to find himself back in Serie B after being loaned to Siena halfway through. By the time he returned to Bari, they had been relegated.

Despite this, he stayed with them until 2015 and had to wait until 2018 before getting another chance in Serie A when he won promotion with Empoli. In all, he has made just 89 appearances in Serie A throughout his career but scored an impressive 41 goals.

“Everyone has their own path to follow,” he said after Wednesday’s match. “Maybe, I didn’t get the best out of myself during those years and maybe I stayed too long at Bari.

“I’m a fan of Bari but, since I left them, I have always done better.”

One of the most striking aspects of Roberto Mancini’s tenure as Italy coach is that he has given chances to late developers, with forward Kevin Lasagna and defender Armando Izzo making their debuts aged 26 and 27 respectively over the past two years.

“Caputo moves well in small spaces, he is always in the danger zone,” said Mancini. “He’s scored so many goals in his career.”

Would he consider taking Caputo to the Euro 2020 tournament next year? “If he continues like this.....”

Writing by Brian Homewood, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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