When former Sassuolo Coach Eusebio Di Francesco outlined that Domenico Berardi “is ready for a big team,” it seemed inevitable the 23-year-old would part with the Neroverdi and move on to the big time.
Instead, it was the tactician who would switch to Roma in the summer of 2017 – leaving Domenico to fend for himself at the Mapei Stadium.
It had not been his best season, though. In fact, his five-goal haul is the lowest he has ever achieved not only in Serie A, but the second tier too.
He faced his first real challenge that year, picking up a knee injury when playing Pescara in August 2016 that would keep him out for 24 matches. Berardi had his luck avoiding any long-term issues prior to that knee problem, missing just eight games since 2012 due to injuries.
At Sassuolo however, Domenico has a home where no matter what the problem is, he has the unanimous support of every single player, Coach, physio and fan. He is comfy where he is; scoring goals and grabbing assists that provide entertainment.
On the other hand, maybe that is the issue? Comfort. Having played for just one club in his career, the forward could have lumbered himself with the ‘big fish small pond’ scenario.
There is no doubt of his talent, but does the Italian favour being the star man in a mid-table team than a bit-part player in a greater club?
At first glance, this might seem true. Juventus decided to backtrack on their attempt at signing the forward due to his indecisiveness regarding the transfer. The Bianconeri had originally co-owned him with Sassuolo, but gave up their 50 per cent back in 2015.
Since then it seemed inevitable Berardi would end up playing his professional football at the Juventus Stadium, but instead backed out of a proposed move a year ago amidst fears of reduced playing time, having seen Simone Zaza’s struggles. Following his change of mind, it has been Inter who have held the most interest, though Barcelona have also been scouting out a possible switch.
Yet, Berardi remains as the main man at Sassuolo. The big cheese. He had the chance of a big move and went against it, despite all his previous statistics proving he could make the step up. Before the 2016-17 season, he had 34 goals across 84 starts, averaging a goal every 0.4 games, which equates to nearly a goal every two matches.
His goal-scoring ability is enough for any team to want to take him, and perhaps back in 2015 he was right to stick with Sassuolo, so he could grow into the current player he is today.
But now, at 23, it’s time to make his move. Take a leaf out of Paulo Dybala’s book. The Argentinian was part of a brilliant duo with Franco Vazquez at Palermo and successfully took the leap to Juventus aged 21.
Berardi’s move could have run parallel with the aforementioned Dybala a year later, but instead he stuck to his roots.
The argument that Berardi’s temper put him off possible suitors is now a thing of the past. Nowadays it is more his own mentality of whether or not he can make the step up that is halting his progress as a footballer.
Berardi needs to break the mould and exit the comfort zone that is keeping him away from the big time.