Socceroos target Volpato focusing on club career

Would take 'something special' for Arnold to leave Socceroos (1:11)

Graham Arnold tells Joey Lynch it would take "something special" to lure him away from the Socceroos coaching job. (1:11)

Graham Arnold has told ESPN that Sassuolo midfielder Cristian Volpato "wants to just focus on his club career" ahead of the Socceroos' first match of 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification.

Born in Sydney and eligible to play for Australia, Volpato joined Serie A giants AS Roma in 2021 and featured for Italy's under-19 side that made the semifinals of the 2022 Under-19 European Championship.

- WATCH ESPN's in-depth interview with Graham Arnold on YouTube

Also making his senior debut for Roma that year under José Mourinho, Volpato was offered a place in Arnold's 26-player Socceroos squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar but declined. The 19-year-old then made a €7.5 million move to Sassuolo in June 2023.

"Volpato, I'm continually communicating with," Arnold told ESPN. "I went to Italy and I saw Sassuolo play against Juventus, I caught up with him and his family after the game. And I do believe that the kid is at the stage where he wants to just focus on his club career."

A one-time Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC youth player, Volpato has yet to nail down a place in coach Alessio Dionisi's Sassuolo side: making four substitute appearances totalling a cumulative 60 minutes across the opening 12 games of league play.

He has also featured in both of the Neroverdi's Coppa Italia games, starting and playing 67 minutes in a second-round win over Spezia that eventually ended with Sassuolo advancing on penalties.

Missing out on selection for the Italian squad that reached the final of the 2023 Under-20 World Cup earlier this year, the attacker made his debut for Carmine Nunziata's U21 team last November. He has most recently featured for Italy's U20 side in the UEFA Elite League, with Alberto Bollini naming him in the squad that will take on England and Portugal later this week.

"Different countries take playing for Australia in different ways," Arnold explained. "And a lot of countries, especially with the young kids, they're not really supportive of the travel; when they get back after one or two games in the FIFA window, they get back on a Friday, they got to play Saturday, and they get left out of the squad, and that takes a few weeks, or even months to get back into the first team.

"So, at this moment in time, my communication with Cristian is just at this moment, he wants to focus on his club career.

"It's great to see just the other day, he played 20 minutes for Sassuolo. And he came on again, only a couple of days ago. I texted him and told him great to see that he's playing."

Having already secured dual nationals like Harry Souttar, Alessandro Circati and Cameron Burgess for Australia, Arnold described keeping track of and communicating with talented players who have multiple eligibilities as "probably my second biggest job" after actually coaching the Socceroos itself.

He also confirmed that Noa Skoko, the son of former Socceroos star Josip who is also eligible for Croatia, and Liam Chipperfield, the son of former Socceroos defender Scott and also eligible for Switzerland, were amongst the players the national setup was communicating with.

"Skoko and Chipperfield, Trevor Morgan [Australia Under-20s coach], and Tony Vidmar [Under-23s coach] are more in contact with them, because of their age," he said.

"I'm in communication a lot with these younger ones because it's completely different to how it used to be in the old days. And I think that's why a lot of people don't understand. You can play 17s, 20s, and 23s for Australia, but then you can go and change and play for different nations.

"A lot of a lot of players have three or four choices on where they want to play.

"But a lot of the time it gets down to what their clubs are saying to them, and what their parents are saying to them, and what their agents are saying. A lot of times it's one step at a time, but I'm making sure that I'm communicating with them and my goal is always to help the national team and the nation."