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Sunday June 18 2017
Italy waiting for Berardi

The European Under-21 Championship is the ideal stage for Domenico Berardi to prove he has matured, writes Matthew Santangelo.

Luigi Di Biagio’s young Azzurrini begin their European Under-21 Championship chase in Group C against Denmark. The Italians, boasting as strong a side as any traveling to Poland this month, must be considered as legitimate favorites to lift the cup when it’s all said and done.

Up and down the pitch lies endless star power. As the last line of defence in net, the precociously talented 18-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma’s freakishly large frame makes his presence felt. Defensively, a loaded back bank employing Mattia Caldara, Daniele Rugani, Andrea Conti and Antonio Barreca could go toe-to-toe with the best of them. Box-to-box dynamo Roberto Gagliardini handles the bulk of midfield responsibility, while Fiorentina’s highly-regarded winger Federico Bernardeschi slots in on the left-hand wing.

But, opposite the Viola stud is an individual with perhaps the most prove to not only his country, but also himself. His name? Domenico Berardi.

Temperamental, yet oozing heaps of untapped potential, the 22-year-old – when on his game – often delivers spellbinding performances when wearing the Sassuolo shirt.  A nagging knee injury forced Berardi to the sidelines for the majority of the first half of the current campaign, limiting him to 21 Serie A appearances. Yet anyone who frequently tunes in to Serie A each weekend knows how prolific Berardi can be when composed, wired in and fully invested in wreaking havoc.

Berardi’s age suggests a youngster who has only just recently begun sniffing top- flight football, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Evident in his 159 appearances for the Neroverdi, the Cariati native has long been a menace in Italy’s first division, even turning down numerous invites from Juventus and Inter for a larger stage. However, Italians would be lying to you if they weren’t demanding more from their tenacious attacker on the international level.

In June 2014 at the lively age of 19, Berardi earned his first U-21 cap with Di Biagio. Since that 4-0 debut in a friendly versus Montenegro, he has amassed a total of 20 appearances, but has scored only three times. He remains one of this generation’s top young Italian stars, despite the tantrums and tirades at the club level sometimes getting the best of his emotions.

This is hardly news to the Federation, who gave him a nine-month ban for failing to attend an Under-19 call-up, thus violating their code of ethics.

Last month, Giampiero Ventura granted Berardi his unofficial Azzurri debut in an 8-0 thrashing of San Marino. Based on what we’ve seen from the Italian tactican’s open-mindedness with respect to call-ups since taking the post from Antonio Conte, youth has – and will have - a place in the side going forward.

But if Berardi is to convince Ventura he is worthy of a spot on next summer’s World Cup roster headed to Russia, it’s time to prove it – right here, right now.

Italy have won a record five U-21 titles, and if a sixth honour is to fill the trophy cabinet, Di Biagio will need Berardi to rise to the occasion throughout the competition. The Under-21 Euros in Poland are a test of maturity and coming of age for Berardi. 

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Have your say...
Chiesa is a fantastic, hardworking player. Kids got a future. He has the grinta needed to be a top class player.
on the 19th June, 2017 at 9:28pm
He's overrated/overhyped. Yesterday's game was a case in point. He disappointed yet again. This guy will never crack a big team lineup and he knows it whihc is why he's staying at Sassuolo.
on the 19th June, 2017 at 3:31pm
The back line is great, Conti and Barreca reminds me of Zam & Grosso, we have a new Juve future pairing in the centre of defence. I think they will be great, add to them Romagnoli and Romagna and the central defence is in great shape. GK & MF is strong and the wingers are great. Our real point of contention is CF as I do not think Petagna can be compared to lets say Vieri or Pippo. All in all the future looks bright for the Azurri. Forza Azurri.
on the 19th June, 2017 at 2:48am
I believe this is one of the strongest Italian U21 squads I have seen for a long time. It is up to Di Biagio to full fill the side's promise and win this championship. I saw the game today and I don't like how Italy sat back after taking the lead. Only when Chiesa came on did we get back some impetus.
on the 19th June, 2017 at 2:41am
in 2015 everything positive for italy went through berardi now they are more options. More than anything a healthy goal tally will show his quality in his tournament.

personally i rate this under 21 side as one of best in over a decade. i am not sure how they are going to fit together for me i would have conti caldara rugani barreca/ pellegrini gagliardini benassi/ berardi petanga bernardeschi starting in a 433 formation.
on the 18th June, 2017 at 2:30pm
5 goals and 9 assists in 21 league games this year along with 5 goals in 4 Europa league games is quite a good return for someone who is considered to have had a poor season

For me, his attitude on the pitch isn't a problem, the majority of his cards come as a result of his closing down defenders or tracking back and not from petulance

From what I've read about him he's quite an introverted person off the pitch and that has been a big reason for staying at Sassuolo
on the 18th June, 2017 at 1:20pm
Seems like for every 10 "top-flight" among Italian prospects, 1 or 2 turn out to be the real deal. I too also wonder if we are over-hyping these young men. Balotelli actually got to that high level but fizzled out very quickly. Why is it that Italy can no longer seem to produce great world class players? Is Rugani the next Nesta or Maldini? Doesn't seem to be...
on the 18th June, 2017 at 12:28pm
His game has stagnated of late. It seems to be common trend with a lot of our promising young players - were they over-hyped to begin with? Or do they lack the attitude to maximize their talent? I'm thinking: Santon, MDS, Balotelli, SES, Destro etc.

Going back to Berardi, his attitude, temperament & injuries haven't helped, but I also feel that he has become stale at Sassuolo. A move could do him good and perhaps a change of position. His skills would serve him well as a 2nd striker.
on the 18th June, 2017 at 10:40am
Berardi's attitude is what has held him back.
on the 18th June, 2017 at 3:18am

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