Max Caputo is reaping the rewards for the Australia youth team and Melbourne City. (Pictures: Isuzu UTE A-League, Design by Theo Dimou)

Developing amongst some of the best young footballers to be produced in Australia since the ‘golden generation,’ one player in particular is emerging as one of the country’s finest talents.

For 17-year-old Max Caputo, he is already living the dream having been on an incredible journey in such a short period of time.

The centre-forward is part of the Melbourne City setup, making his debut in the Melbourne derby at 15 years and 293 days back in 2021 while also tasting international experience with Australia at Under 18 and Under 20 levels.

Speaking to The Inner Sanctum in an exclusive interview, Caputo reminisced about the very beginning of his career growing up in Melbourne and how his development has transpired throughout the years.

“At five years old I started at Essendon Royals with the MiniRoos and I just had fun with it before seeing where things would go,” Caputo told The Inner Sanctum.

“When I was six I was playing with the under 9’s who were two or three years older than me even at under 10’s I didn’t really have a passion for it at that age but I was enjoying scoring goals.”

It wasn’t long after, that enjoyment translated into a real passion for the game.

“A coach from Spain approached my Dad and me to be trained at North City Wolves in Coburg where he would come and watch me at Essendon Royals from age nine to 11.

“He made me a lot better and I started finding a passion for it because I realised my potential and also playing in a good team helped.

“I ended up going to Spain for four weeks and played against some La Liga clubs at youth level like Barcelona and Leganes which was a great experience,” Caputo said.

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Returning his focus to playing back home, the next stage of Caputo’s career would begin to take shape as he was identified by two A-League clubs.

“From there I moved to [Sunshine] George Cross when I was 11 and we won the under 12 championship even though I was trying to adapt to the NPL as one of the younger players in the league where I didn’t have my best year.

“The next season I played in the under 13’s and I won top goal scorer which led to me having a great year.

“In one of those games against Avondale I scored four goals and one of the Melbourne City coaches was there and invited me to come trial.

“I was also training at Melbourne Victory one day a week Melbourne City one day a week and George Cross three nights a week plus a match on the weekend for six months where I eventually chose to play for City,” he said.

In three seasons, he managed to score a staggering 65 goals in 58 appearances in two seasons with George Cross and his first year with the City youth team.

Playing for the Melbourne City youth under 15 side while just approaching the age of 13, a massive opportunity presented itself for Caputo to assert himself as one of Australia’s brightest young talents.

After making a few cameos off the bench, particularly during the 2022/23 campaign, Caputo scored his debut goal for a 10-man City against the Newcastle Jets in the 92nd minute, heading home from a corner to snatch the equaliser, he explained the emotion felt during that moment.

“Before I scored the goal I was coming off the bench a couple of games and even the season before, but it was hard to break into the squad,” he said.

“I felt like that goal gave me a lot of confidence toward the back end of the season in the NPL and obviously for the national youth team later on.

“At the moment that sort of occasion has never happened to me before and for me it was better than making my debut because I felt as if I belonged.

“It didn’t feel real and I just looked up to the sky at the halfway line thinking ‘How has this happened?’”

Achieving a first-team role in the first tier of Australian football is an amazing feat, but for many youngsters in the past who make such a step, a large number tend to struggle with the weight of expectation and produce inconsistent performances.

Caputo admits that there has been pressure, but what’s most impressive is how he deals with that baggage.

“In terms of coping with pressure it’s pretty hard for me because I made my debut so young and probably no one my age made it as far as I did.

“People are coming up and saying ‘Oh he’s supposed to be the main kid coming through,’ and so for me it’s about doing my own thing and not thinking about it by just having fun.

“I feel coping with pressure is one of the main things why young footballers don’t make it because everyone is as good as each other but some overthink too much,” Caputo explained.

This response demonstrates how well-grounded and mature Max is to put his head down and not look too far ahead into the future, which was noticeable during the interview as he spoke. 

As Caputo mentioned earlier, it’s proven to be challenging for him to play consistent minutes each week, but that is primarily down to the amount of talent and depth that City have at their disposal.

Competing against the likes of Jamie Maclaren, Matthew Leckie, and Andrew Nabbout who are all proven Socceroo internationals, Caputo describes the experience of what it’s like to work with them daily.

“It’s been great Maclaren drives me home sometimes and he’s the main striker there who I’ve learned a lot from he teaches me the little things that you wouldn’t think of while you’re playing and he’s just so intelligent.

“Even Leckie and Nabbout one thing they all have in common is consistency and for myself as a young player that’s valuable to try and learn and improve,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Caputo’s hard work and commitment paid off as he was selected to represent his country for the under 18’s in the Portugal Football Federation (FPF) Sub-18 tournament in Lisbon against England, Norway, and the Portuguese.

Facing some of the best young prospects in world football, Caputo cherished the moment and further increased his prominence, scoring goals against both England and Norway in a 3-2 loss and a 2-1 win respectively.

“To play against players like Joe Bellingham and others who are worth three to five million dollars was just crazy but the whole experience was really good,” he said.

“Just to see where we’re at from an Australian perspective I thought we did really well.

“Portugal was a level ahead of us and England was more physical even though we still competed well against them where we conceded in the last minute.

“I think against Norway we dominated which is a great sign considering some of our players don’t even play or train for clubs in the A-League yet.”

Playing alongside relatively new faces in the camp, Caputo highlighted how easy it was to get along with the group both on and off the pitch.

“The boys gelled together so well we learnt so much about everyone just through playing Uno every night which was great to bond but we were also professional when we needed to be,” he said. 

Decisions involving the next career path around which club to choose are always extremely vital, often the difference between failing and succeeding.

When asked about his future goals and where he envisions himself in the next few years, Caputo strives for consistency to gradually develop before making the transition overseas.

“I want to have a proper season in the A-League where I’m starting matches and contributing with goals and assists which is probably my main strength with that I’ll see where it takes me because that can take you anywhere in football.

“As we’ve seen with Jordan Bos, Marco Tilio, and Aiden O’Neill they are all making moves and I aspire to be one of those players and make a move overseas which I think is the best pathway for me.

“Maybe in the next five years hopefully I can make my Socceroos debut,” Caputo concluded.

Blessed with a great attitude and a strong work ethic both on and off the field, Max Caputo is trending on the upward trajectory of accomplishing those same heights and enjoying a successful career.

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