In 2009, Federico Macheda made his Manchester United debut in one of the most memorable ways possible: by executing a drag-back turn and scoring a goal against visiting Aston Villa to help the Red Devils clinch top spot in the Premier League.
That one goal propelled the then-17-year-old striker into the spotlight. He even got invited to two of his teammates’ famous haunts – the exclusive Manchester casinos 235 and The Circle Club. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for Macheda, he was refused entry to both. Apparently, Man Utd legend and then-manager Sir Alex Ferguson had phoned ahead to remind casino security that he was still a few months shy of his 18th birthday.
It’s no secret that some of the world’s top athletes love to gamble. Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player ever, has long been known as a casino patron who enjoys table and card games. Top tennis pro Rafa Nadal has taken to poker like a fish takes to water, even becoming a sponsored player in the process.
Naturally, football players are no exception. The Red Devils, in particular, have made a reputation for themselves as high rollers. In 2008, for example, The Mirror reported that Wayne Rooney lost £65,000 at the 235 casino in a mere two hours. Word has it that a dozen Man Utd players have also collectively racked up losses totaling to £250,000 at the same casino when they celebrated Rio Ferdinand’s birthday.
Perhaps the most high-profile Man Utd player in the world of poker is former Red Devil forward Teddy Sheringham, who caught the bug while still an active player. Once he retired, Sheringham finally had time to play and eventually became a semi-professional poker player. In 2009, he took 14th place in the World Series of Poker Europe tournament against a field of big-name pros.
It’s not just the players, either. Even management got involved last year through Partypoker’s Road to Old Trafford event, a three-day tournament that let fans display their poker skills right in the Red Devils’ stomping grounds and rub shoulders with Man Utd legends. Fittingly enough, the winner of the tournament was Sam Trickett, a former youth football star aiming for a spot in the Man Utd roster before an injury led to him becoming a professional poker player.
Macheda, however, doesn’t seem to have quite caught the same gambling bug that has infected most Man Utd players. In an interview with The Daily Mail last year, he revealed that going out and partying to his heart’s content is not his style. “I am not a guy who has to go out every weekend,” he said “I like to stay home and concentrate on the football.” At least if he ever does decide to drop by a casino now he won’t be refused entry due to his age.