All Whites star Liberato Cacace living out boyhood dream in Italy & More News Here

All Whites star Liberato Cacace had easy one request for his agent when Italian membership Empoli expressed an curiosity in signing him in January: “Try get it done”.

Cacace created historical past when he grew to become the primary New Zealand man to play in Italy’s Serie A after securing a short-term mortgage from Belgian Pro League membership Sint Truiden on switch deadline day.

The 21-year-old left-back stated Empoli tabled their provide very late in the window. There had been no curiosity with solely week to go, so he figured he would doubtless should see out the season in Belgium.

Empoli left-back Liberato Cacace, right, battles for possession with Napoli’s Kévin Malcuit during their Serie A encounter.

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Empoli left-back Liberato Cacace, proper, battles for possession with Napoli’s Kévin Malcuit throughout their Serie A encounter.

But issues moved in a short time when Riccardo Marchizza suffered a season-ending harm in opposition to Roma on January 24, forcing Empoli to enter the market to signal a substitute.

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“I was focussed on my football in Belgium. We were playing midweek games, usually two or three games a week but obviously I had one eye on the transfer window as well, seeing what was popping up,” Cacace said.

“I was talking with my agent but nothing came up even a week before it closed so I assumed I was just going to be in Belgium for the rest of the season.

“But then with like three or four days remaining in the window some interest came up and knowing it came from Italy it was a decision I couldn’t turn down.


All Whites defender Liberato Cacace reveals how his move to Italy transpired.

“I’ve always told everyone it was a dream of mine to play in Italy so once that news came about I told my agent ‘try get it done’.

“I’m very thankful that Sint-Truiden gave me the opportunity to play in Europe and I wish I could have done a bit more there, I don’t think I showed my full capabilities, like I didn’t score a goal in Belgium.

“Towards the end it was becoming pretty difficult but once that opportunity came I felt like I was ready and needed a fresh start, and there was no better way than going to Italy.”

Cacace made his debut a week later in a 0-0 draw against Bologna, replacing Fabiano Parisi with 20 minutes left in the game.

Liberato Cacace supported two clubs growing up: Napoli and Wellington Phoenix.


Liberato Cacace supported two clubs growing up: Napoli and Wellington Phoenix.

His first start came three games after that, in a 3-2 defeat against 36-times champions Juventus.

It was the first time he took the field at Empoli’s Stadio Carlo Castellani.

“In the few days leading up to the game you don’t think it’s that incredible really until you are side by side with them in the tunnel.

“It’s there where I realised ‘wow, I’ve come a long way.’ But I just smile and use it as motivation in the game.

“I’m glad I got to share the pitch with big teams.”

Cacace was tasked with marking Colombian international Juan Cuadrado when Empoli played Juventus, a player with more than 400 professional appearances under his belt.

“We were trying to implement a high press but he’s one of the trickiest customers I’ve ever come up against. But obviously it was good to really see what I’m like against world-class opponents.”

Cacace has been in and out of the starting XI since his arrival, making eight appearances and four starts, but he said the style of the game has taken some getting used to.

Liberato Cacace made his Serie A debut against Bologna in February.

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Liberato Cacace made his Serie A debut against Bologna in February.

He said the pace of the game was not as fast as it was in Belgium but the players were technically better on the ball, forcing the hard-running fullback to work more on the defensive side of his game.

“I think I’ve improved a lot with my defensive abilities. I think I got caught out a few times but I’ve learned a lot with these coaches here.

“When I signed I didn’t think I was going to be chucked in so soon. I think I had maybe three or four training sessions and then I was on the bench against Bologna and made my debut.

Liberato Cacace joined Empoli from Belgian Pro League club Sint-Truiden.

Jeroen Meuwsen/Getty Images

Liberato Cacace joined Empoli from Belgian Pro League club Sint-Truiden.

“But being chucked in so soon has made me adjust better and kept my game rhythm going.

“This is new for me, playing one game and sitting out the next but I’ve just been grateful to get the starts against the big teams and to play in Serie A and hopefully I can really push on next season.”

Cacace grew up supporting Napoli as a boy and he still has family that live in Naples, including his grandmother, who he visits whenever he can.

He said it was surreal to play against them on April 25, with Cacace helping Empoli overturn a two-goal deficit to snatch a 3-2 victory.

The result was significant for a couple of reasons as it dashed Napoli’s hopes of winning the league but also went a long way to securing Empoli’s survival after earning promotion from Serie B last season.

“I didn’t start against them but I wanted to at least share the pitch with Napoli. Growing up supporting them and my whole family living in Naples, it was a great feeling and to also beat them was weird.

“Obviously I want them to do well in the league but I’m here with Empoli and at the time we weren’t secured safety in the league so I was happy to do my part and turn the game around.”

As well as getting a chance to reconnect with some of his extended family in Italy, Cacace has also been busy learning the language.

He admitted many people in Italy had just assumed he was fluent in Italian because he had an Italian name and was of Italian descent.

Liberato Cacace celebrates after scoring his first goal for New Zealand during the OFC World Cup qualifying tournament.

Tom Kirkwood/Photosport

Liberato Cacace celebrates after scoring his first goal for New Zealand during the OFC World Cup qualifying tournament.

He knew some words but his first press conference was mainly in English and conducted through a translator.

“At first it was funny because they thought I could speak Italian but they have really helped me a lot with that. Even though it was rusty at first, it has improved a lot and my communication with players and staff etc has been better than I thought. It’s been an interesting one but I hope I can be fluent by the end of the year.”

By avoiding relegation, Empoli have triggered a clause that means they are now obligated to sign Cacace to a permanent deal.

After creating history as the first New Zealander to play in the men’s Serie A – Football Ferns striker Katie Rood played for the Juventus women’s team in 2017 – Cacace said he was looking forward to achieving more milestones over the coming seasons in Italy.

“It didn’t really hit me that I was the first Kiwi but as time has gone on it’s become very special to me to look back at it.

“It was a very special moment for me and my family but hopefully I can keep achieving goals, be the first one to score and things like that.

“I’m just riding this dream of mine and hopefully I can keep getting better and better.”

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