MILAN - Inter's scouts first noticed Marco Andreolli when he was playing for the Padova academy. The central defender, already a regular in the Italian U17 team, joined Inter on loan from the Veneto club in July 2003 and after impressing at Interello stayed on in a co-ownership deal before sealing a permanent move to Milan. And now, after first-team appearances in the league, cup and the Champions League for Roberto Mancini's Nerazzurri, Andreolli's career took another jump forward last night when he made his debut for Italy's Under21 national team in a friendly match against Croatia in Grosseto.

Andreolli's first words of thanks were for the club and Roberto Mancini. "He has taught me so much, both tactically and technically", he said. "I will always thank Inter and Mancini. The club has followed me since I was very young; they bought me from Padova and showed their belief in me, giving me the chance to express my talents in what is an ideal environment for a young player.

"Besides helping me a lot in training, Mancini has also given me the chance to experience incredible emotions by handing me my first-team debut. And I'm not forgetting all the coaches I have had in the academy teams, either. Also, and I realise that I still haven't done anything and that I am still at the start of an adventure that could be very important for me, I have to thank all those champions who I train with every day, who I have 'stolen' everything I can from, and who have always given me encouragement to help me mature."

A polite boy, but with great character on the pitch, Andreolli played a key role in Daniele Bernazzani's Inter Primavera side last season, scoring the winning goal from a header in the Coppa Italia final victory over local rivals AC Milan. "I was very happy that day. The goal wasn't just mine, it belonged to all my colleagues," he said.

From the Padova academy to success with Inter Primavera, his first-team debut and now the Italian Under21 national team, Andreolli has his eyes on the sky but knows the learning process must continue: "I realise I still haven't achieved anything. There is a long way to go and I am still at the beginning. Despite all the compliments it is important for me to keep my feet on the ground and work with the same desire and humility that have brought me this far. For a boy like me there is still a lot to learn. I am lucky enough to train with great players every day and they show how important it is to work hard and seriously to get to their level. And this is my main goal: to do my best to improve as a man and as a player." For a player who displays a maturity way beyond his years, Andreolli can look forward to a bright future.

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