Sheffield United: Italy legend wins duel for Diego

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A PERSONAL plea from Arrigo Saachi, the legendary former AC Milan coach, persuaded Sheffield United’s Diego De Girolamo to pledge his international allegiance to Italy, The Star can confirm.

De Girolamo, who could make his debut for the Under-18s on Sunday, found himself at the centre of a tug of war between England and his adopted country after graduating from United’s academy three months ago.

Although the Football Association hoped the Chesterfield born striker would opt to represent Noel Blake’s side, Saachi’s remarkable intervention swung the battle for De Girolamo’s affections in the Azzurrini’s favour.

The 66-year-old, who boasts two European Cups and a Serie A title on his CV, entered the fray after learning of Blake’s interest.

“The very fact that someone like Arrigo Saachi went to the time and trouble of telephoning Diego and his family proved beyond any doubt how much Italy wanted him,” a source confirmed last night. “You don’t say ‘no’ to someone like him because there aren’t many bigger names in the modern game.

“His willingness to get involved also shows how highly Diego is rated by the Italians.”

De Girolamo, who qualifies for Alberigo Evan’s side courtesy of his Neapolitan father, has linked-up with Italy’s 20-man squad ahead of this weekend’s Granatkin Memorial Cup opener against Belgium. Belarus and hosts Russia are also competing in the prestigious youth tournament.

The Star exclusively revealed news of Italy’s interest last month and the source added: “England made representations to Diego but only after Italy had made their intentions clear a long while before and that also counted for a lot.”