History is filled to the brim with examples that prove, time and time again, that sometimes football can the cruelest sport in the world.
There have been numerous players in the past who made their mark on the global football stage at a young age, but that was the best we ever saw of them.
They faded away in the silhouettes of the others, never recovering to fulfill their potential.
Their stories are unlike Jamie Vardy, who came out of nowhere to help Leicester City miraculously win the Premier League, there are players who could never get going after realizing their dreams.
One such story is that of Giuliano Maiorana, a man whose journey went from nowhere to the cusp of stardom and then back to nowhere is a unique one.
A former Manchester United player, Maiorana’s story is a that is an epitome of the uncertainties that always linger around in football, no matter how ‘beautiful’ we presume the game to be.
“You’ve got to realise that six weeks previously I was playing for Histon, six leagues below the old fourth division, which then was the lowest professional league in England,” says Maiorana.
The fairytale journey, that took him Manchester United, was a unique one indeed. Born in Cambridge, Maiorana was plying his trade at a bakery till 1987, when Histon came calling and he penned a deal with the then Eastern Counties League outfit.
Much like Maiorana himself, Histon used to be and still is an unknown club nestled in a village that exists around three miles off Cambridge.
And few know that the existence of Histon is possibly down to Maiorana, in a way.
At the tender age of 19, Maiorana was invited for a trial at Manchester United after a report from a Lincoln-based scout had impressed those at the helm at the Theatre of Dreams.
Maiorana’s impressive in the 30-odd appearances that he had made for Histon had also attracted interest from the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea and Watford.
He had previously underwent several trials at his home-town club Cambridge United, but was rejected just as many times. Cambridge’s chief scout at that time, Graham Scarf, admitted:
Manchester United are in a better position to take a chance on him than we are.
And it was Manchester United who reacted first to Maiorana’s situation and gave him a go in the first half of a testimonial game for former Birmingham City player Ian Handysides, who met his demise due to cancer two years later.
Maiorana came up with a splendid performance in the trial, compelling Sir Alex Ferguson to hail the showing as “one of the best displays I have ever seen from a trialist.”
Histon, who were in the middle of a financial crisis and edged close to going out of business, accepted a £30,000 for Maiorana.
The fee helped Histon emerge out of the muddle, as they managed to tide over the £23,000 debt.
And it certainly is a dream come true for someone who was no way near playing for a renowned football club, let alone one of the biggest clubs in the world right now.
The journey from the tenth division of English football to the first division of it left Maiorana fascinated.
“Walking on Old Trafford playing for the reserves is extraordinary, but walking on there for the first team is a feeling that you can’t explain,” he says.
Maiorana found himself to be on the bench in a game league clash against Millwall in 1989 and dazzled most during his first start against Arsenal the same year.
When I came on as a sub for my debut I remember turning 360 degrees to see the magnitude of it.
This was a time when Sir Alex Ferguson had begun to lay emphasis on bringing a host of youngsters to the fore of the first-team, after developing them in the famed United academy.
Maiorana was made to play alongside players like Lee Sharpe, Robby Savage and Shaun Goater, but was the eldest among them at that time.
He started on the left wing against the Gunners and a video on Youtube, which showcases his first full-debut at Old Trafford proves him to a quick, fleet-footed winger, who loves to take defenders on and beat them. He always looks to go past the full-back throughout the game, giving him a torrid time.
The video ends with the Italian grinning and smiling at the cameras, as United fans surround him, yearning for the autograph of someone who was being dubbed as the ‘Next George Best’ so early in his United career.
The task of coming up against Lee Dixon, at that time one of the best full backs in the division, didn’t scare Maiorana at all.
“I used to like doing things differently from others. I liked surprising defenders with things, a flick or a back heel, for instance, “ says Maiorana, describing the way he liked playing football at that time.
“Imagine doing a back heel and you’re turning and the defender is still looking the wrong direction from where the ball is, if that makes sense.”
He always had the willingness and the verve to do something outside the box and wanted to something different.
I liked dribbling and running with the ball, for me it was boring for me to pass it 5 yards. I also liked doing overhead kicks. I tried to get the people watching off there seats, for me a lot of it was about the fans, to entertain them. That’s how I tried to play the game.
Six weeks before I made my debut for United, I was used to playing in front of 50 people. Six weeks later I was walking on the pitch at Old Trafford with around 35 to 40 thousand watching the game.
But life, as most know, is full of uncertainties. Just when you think that all’s well, it can change much before you realize anything.
All it takes is a blink of an eye. And it didn’t take much time for things to change for Maiorana, who could make only start and two substitute appearances following his stellar debut against Arsenal.
Things had gone wrong between him and Sir Alex, despite the latter being one of the reasons why Maiorana joined the Old Trafford-based club. And Sir Alex later turned out to be one of the reasons why he departed the club.
Maiorana could never get along well with the Scotsman, as injuries began plaguing his career.
It was during a day in April, 1991 that Maiorana was featuring in a reserves game against the Aston Villa youth side and he tried to win the ball back from future Manchester United player Dwight Yorke.
That tackle was the last he would ever make in a Manchester United jersey. Maiorana sustained a ruptured knee ligament and was forced into undergoing a surgery.
This derailment from the track that could’ve possibly taken Maiorana a long way in his short-lived Manchester United career, allowed the other youngsters such as Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers to step in and make a mark in the first team.
Maiorana is full of praise for the youngsters who went onto win the European Cup in dramatic fashion in 1999: “The types of players they were, (I) don’t think that will happen again. The class of ’92 were a one off in my opinion.
For me though one player stood out from the rest and that’s Scholes. I knew when I left the club he was way above all of the other youngsters. You’ve got to respect all of them though because of the great careers they had.
The career then went downhill for Maiorana, who underwent a second operation in 1993 and the relationship between the ‘Italian’ and Sir Alex deteriorated from then on.
And as they say, when you’ve scaled the mountain peak, the only way forward is down, Maiorana’s downfall commenced soon after he received a letter from Manchester United that thanked him for his services to the club, but it was ‘thanks very much’. It was also made clear to him he was allowed to enter into negotiations with other clubs.
And that was curtains for Maiorana and his Manchester United career, that had promised to be something very different from how it panned out to be.
Some months after beginning to feel disillusioned with football, Maiorana joined Swedish club Ljunkskile, where he made five appearances in a season.
“I am proud of the footballing ability I had. I was very lucky to be blessed with the natural skill I had. What I’m not proud of is my football career,” Maiorana claims.
“(But) I feel starting just 2 games for the first team isn’t much of an achievement. That’s how I feel about my career.”
And at the age of mere 25, a career that spanned three clubs, eight years and a bit more than forty first-team appearances, came to a stuttering halt.
announced his retirement and went back to Cambridge to work in his family upholstery business, determined not to make a comeback in the game.
“After retiring I had a lot of demons to fight, ” he admits. “I wasn’t in a very good place for many years. Didn’t want anything to do with football. I didn’t watch it for years,” says Maiorana as he struggled with life right after having quit football at an age which can be considered premature for retirement.
Luckily I had a loving, close Italian family and they helped me pull through. Also what helped me was the fact that my wife is from Manchester and now we have a 16-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son.
As of now, the 47-year-old Maiorana still resides in Cambridge and pops up in occasional 5-a-side games around the place for fun. He sometimes trains his son’s team and still happens to work for his family’s upholstery business.
“I always tell people that my career didn’t work out but my life did, thankfully,” he says, contemplating on his career, which can well be used an example for proving that not all footballing careers can have a happy ending.
The former winger is critical of the current United side, which has endured a rather rocky start to the season:
The current United side must start winning games. Spent a hell of a lot of money and the players haven’t performed, one can’t even get a start. At the beginning of the season I thought that United had one of the best teams, if not the best team on paper. United have to start turning things around pretty quickly.
Although, Maiorana could never assume the form of what was once expected out of him, but he did achieve a dream that very few come close to accomplishing. The dream evaporated from his life, much before he could realise it.
As he now lives a life in peace, some Manchester United fans may still remember him as a player who lifted them off their seat and excite them. In one instant a life can change.