“Perfect in every respect.” These were the words of Antonio Conte when referring to Nicolo Barella’s performance against Juventus.
The tenacious midfielder was unplayable against the Old Lady as his use of the ball, intelligent play and magnificent engine made his opposition counter parts look inadequate.
This is not luck, the young midfielder has shown that he can consistently dominate games but even for him, this last game was something special. Now as the Nerazzurri focus their sights on the Scudetto, they have a player who can truly be referred to as the best Italian midfielder at this moment in time.
You know you are doing something right at Inter when Lothar Matthaus waxes lyrical about the similarities between the two in playing style. It is quite evident to see, they both have stamina that is not quite normal, they have the same powerful running style, both could/can tackle hard, possess and incredible range of passing and they can score goals.
Barella may not be at World Player of the Year standard yet but he is certainly doing everything he can to lift his star.
It all went well for Barella against Juventus but he worked for it. He gained his sixth league assist of the season when he crossed in for Arturo Vidal to score the opener.
He then connected on a superlative long pass from Alessandro Bastoni, drove through ‘The Old Lady’s’ back line before scoring with a finish reminiscent of Diego Milito. It was astounding as he also had something else on his mind.
As he put Juventus to the sword, his wife, Federica Schievenin gave birth to their third child. It was certainly quite the week.
Such responsibility on and off the pitch is a lot to bare and considering he is still only 23-years of age, it is quite incredible just how mature he is.
Barella had a good schooling. Born in Sardinia he started out at the academy of the legendary Gigi Riva. He was picked up by Cagliari at eight years of age and developed as a trequartista although he soon found himself operating all over the midfield and becoming adaptable and showing enough quality to see him take the attention of the Italy-U19’s and after a loan to then Serie B side Como, he established him for Cagliari.
As players like Alessandro Del Piero amongst others praised him, it was no surprise that he was picked up by one of Italy’s elite clubs.
Inter won his hand and he has not looked back as his appears to be the model professional and his life on and off the pitch is without controversy.
His wife, fellow Sardinian, Federica, is seven years older than him and perhaps part of the reason that he shows so much maturity. He has claimed that he wants to emulate former Inter captains Javier Zanetti and Giacinto Facchetti and despite interest gathering from some of Europe’s elite, he has always expressed his loyalty to Inter.
Saying that, if his performances keep going in this direction then the attention will certainly increase.
Barella is a fans’ favourite and his ability to produce the same performances no matter whether he plays with Marcelo Brozovic, Vidal or Stefano Sensi. For him to take himself to the top level. then he must become the game changer in big games on a regular basis, not just good games but outstanding ones.
With Juventus slipping off the pace, the Serie A title race is wide open. Roma, Napoli and Inter are trying to hunt down the ever-impressive Milan.
They will continue to need the engine and creativity in the midfield as the affect it has on the rest of the team is infectious. With Achraf Hakimi and Matteo Darmian on the wings, it allows Barella’s range of passing to be utilised and with the aforementioned three and Marcelo Brozovic, Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku will continue to be supplied.
For most 23-year old players, it may be wise not to expect too much and to take the pressure off, but Barella seems to thrive on it.
Inter need to be careful of not becoming too dependent on him and instead, need to nurture his rapid improvement.
Inter may be thinking of the Scudetto this season, but if they can get Barella to be anywhere near the standards of his admirer, Lothar Matthaus, they could think about titles to come also.