Domenico Berardi will have Giuseppe Bergomi firmly in his sights if he is selected to form part of Italy’s World Cup squad this summer.
The 19-year-old may not have any personal or professional ties with the former Inter defender, but if he is serious about his Azzurri aspirations, then he would have studied the man affectionately known as Lo Zio closely, to take inspiration from his performances in 1982.
Despite just one full season of Serie A football behind him, Bergomi showed enough maturity to warrant starting places in the Azzurri’s last two matches of the tournament and not to mention looking fearlessly at home alongside legendary liberi Franco Baresi and Gaetano Scirea.
Fast forward to 2014, and Berardi could be set to emulate the World Cup-winning hero. Starring en route to Sassuolo’s unlikely promotion last term, a further 12 goals in 23 appearances in his debut top-flight campaign have shown that he is not afraid to mix it with the big boys.
Berardi wasn’t afraid to break a few records on the way either. Only two months after his hat-trick against Sampdoria, he became the first player in history to score four goals against Milan and the second player since the legendary Silvio Piola to net a quadruple of strikes in a Serie A match.
Thanks to his impending transfer to Juventus, which was wrapped up shortly after the new season had kicked off, his head wasn’t turned by the rumour mill, like so many others previous to him, even if he has so far failed to revisit those heights in the games that have passed.
Much like his contemporaries, the lightning-quick Berardi normally operates on the right-hand side of an attacking trident, although he has been deployed as a centre forward by Eusebio Di Francesco. His signature move is to cut inside with his left foot and pepper the opposing goal with snapshots.
As shown by his six assists, he is also able to call upon a decisive footballing brain and supply a teammate with a devilish cross or sumptuous through-ball, whichever is more suitable in the context of the phase of play.
His exciting style of play has already earned comparisons with the likes of Arjen Robben, but he isn’t without his faults. At 6’1, the Calabrese native has been accused of not fully utilising the considerable frame he is blessed with.
Having just turned 19, Berardi has already been sent off twice in his career, including notably in Sassuolo’s crunch final match of last season against Livorno. Although he is aggressive by nature, that particular trait could easily be mistaken for a dirty streak or lack of big-game mentality.
Nevertheless, not since Mauro Camoranesi have Italy found an attacking winger of such potential star quality, neither must they wait another 20 years like they did in unearthing the Argentine-born ace to succeed Bruno Conti.
In Brazil, Cesare Prandelli is likely to compete with the 4-3-1-2 system, which eliminates the need for wingers, but the 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 cannot be ignored in the event that tactical changes are required, and for that reason alone, Berardi has a definite case to be included.