For this week’s player spotlight, we’re going to the island of Sardegna, where a certain striker named Alessandro Matri has quickly become one of the reasons for Cagliari’s success over the past few years. He also has a strange trademark celebration where he makes a duck motion with his hand but he won’t tell anyone what it means. It’s apparently a secret between him and teammate Andrea Lazzari. Maybe we’ll find out one day. Matri has become a very good striker, and seems to constantly be improving. Let’s profile the Cagliari striker.
Alessandro Matri was born on August 19, 1984 in Sant’Angelo Lodigiano in the province of Lodi, near Milan. At the age of 12, Matri joined the Milan youth system in 1996. He worked his way up the youth system ladder and eventually became a main figure of the Primavera side. In 2003, still only 18, Matri got his first team debut. It was a strange situation. It was May 23, 2003, and Milan had two finals coming up: the Coppa Italia final v. Roma and the Champions League final v. Juventus. So with the season pretty much not at risk with 3 games to go, Ancelotti decided to rest all the starters and play a team full of only reserves and Primavera players. All of the Primavera players that played for Milan that day are now just languishing in Lega Pro, but Matri has made it to the top. After that 71 minute appearance, Matri never made another appearance for Milan, who quickly sent him back to the Primavera side. In the summer of 2004, at the age of 20 and ineligible to play for the Primavera team anymore, Milan decided to loan him out to gain experience. This was the period where most of Milan’s Primavera players were signed to long contracts, but loaned out every season. Many never made it back to base and were eventually sold off, and Matri falls into this category. For 2 seasons (2004/2005 and 2005/2006), Matri was loaned to local Serie C clubs to gain experience. First to Prato where he had 5 goals in 32 games, and then to Lumezzane where he impressed and scored 13 goals in 32 appearances. After the positive season at Lumezzane, Matri was signed by Serie B club Rimini, and that’s where he got noticed. Although he only scored 4 goals in 28 appearances, Matri showed great quality at the club that comes from a town known for it’s beaches, not calcio. So in the summer of 2007, Cagliari decided to buy half of his rights from Milan. With Davide Ballardini at the helm, Matri played 34 times, but most of those appearances were from the bench. That season Robert Acquafresca was in great form and therefore he was the starter. He did, however, score in the first game of the season in his Serie A debut, and score 5 more after that. At the end of the campaign, Ballardini left Cagliari and Cagliari bought the other half of Matri’s rights from Milan for 2.3 million euro. With Max Allegri now at the helm, Matri once again started wasn’t a guaranteed starter because of Roberto Acquafresca and his superb period of form (14 goals in 36 games). Matri once again scored 6 goals, but in 31 appearances. In the summer of 2009, Acquafresca left, and it was finally time for Matri to shine. He once again started from the bench, but after a couple of games he became indispensable to Allegri. Matri started to score, and after 16 games, he had equaled legend Gigi Riva’s record of having scored in 7 consecutive matches. Matri went on to play in every single game, and showed much improvement. He became one to keep an eye on. And now, this season. Matri has already scored 4 goals in 5 games (2 goals against Roma, 2 against Juve), and is showing once again immense improvement. He really has become a dependable Serie A striker. It will be interesting to follow Matri this season. If he keeps scoring, a big club may come knocking in the summer or maybe even a surprise national team call-up (I however think that Matri is a player that will only flourish on a small team, won’t perform at a high level). Definitely keep your eye on Matri this season.
Matri is of average build (only 6 feet), and he can play both as a target man or a second striker. While he doesn’t have the sublime technique that most second strikers have, he does have great passing ability for out and out striker, which is why he is placed next to another striker at times. He is a physical player, which is why for me is he much more of a prima punta. He has proven to have excellent finishing ability with both feet but most of all with his head. He’s also very good at making runs into the box and finding open space between defenders.