Monday April 14 2014
Brilliant Bernardeschi

Richard Thomas profiles Italy’s World Cup wildcard Federico Bernardeschi, who despite his probable exclusion for Brazil seems set for a bright future.

The presence of the likes of Stephan El Shaarawy and Antonio Cassano in Cesare Prandelli’s squad to undergo physical testing over the next couple of days may have provided the bulk of the headlines, but the Italian Coach’s selection most far out of left field was undoubtedly that of Crotone’s Federico Bernardeschi.

The 20-year-old attacking midfielder, on loan at the Serie B club from Fiorentina for the season, is the only player from Italy’s second tier to be included in Prandelli’s 42-man party and is still yet to make a first team appearance for his parent club – though he has been an unused substitute on five occasions. Although many regard the test squad, foreign based players excluded, as the Azzurri’s unofficial preliminary squad for the World Cup finals, any prospect of Bernardeschi ousting fierce competition to claim one of the 23 places on offer in Brazil still seems remote in the extreme.

Nevertheless, Prandelli’s decision to call him up casts light and attention on a highly promising young talent who until Friday remained very much under the radar due to his lack of experience at the top level. While the physical tests at Coverciano are highly likely to be as close to a role in Rio that Bernardeschi gets, the national Coach clearly rates him very highly and wants to accustom him to the way in which the Azzurri work so as to prepare him for future action.

But what of his past and present? Born in the Tuscan town of Carrara in 1994, Bernardeschi joined local side Atletico Carrara as a young boy and was scouted in 2001 by Ponzano, the name of Empoli’s renowned youth academy. There he remained for two years before, at the age of nine, he was spotted and signed up by then-Viola sporting director Pantaleo Corvino, who had built up a reputation based on his ability to sound out young talent.

He has worked his way up through the ranks in Florence ever since, with appearances for Italy’s various youth teams only serving to underline his potential. Eventually he reached Primavera level, where in the 2012-13 season he scored a whopping 17 goals in 22 appearances and established himself as a leader in the dressing room. This was reportedly enough to attract the interest of a certain Sir Alex Ferguson, who was keen on tempting the youngster to Manchester. After much consideration however, the player and his family opted that his development should continue closer to home.

It has since proved a wise decision and, in the summer of 2013, it was decided that Bernardeschi was ready to take the next step in his career. A loan spell with Crotone was arranged and his nine goals and five assists in 31 Serie B appearances this season have played a major part in the Calabria side’s promotion push to date. He has been regularly deployed on the right of Crotone boss Massimo Drago’s front three, allowing him to cut inside on to his favoured left foot to great effect as Pitagorici fans have been treated to watching the growth of a player with precocious technical ability, accurate shooting, frightening pace and excellent dead ball skills.

In March this year his form was rewarded with a maiden call-up to Italy’s U21 side for their must win European Championship qualifier with Northern Ireland, and a few days ago came the latest significant stepping stone in his rapid rise, as Prandelli named him among his World Cup hopefuls.

Though Bernardeschi’s World Cup dream this time around will in all probability end once he has completed the tests set out for him in Coverciano, his form and presence in the squad suggests we should be seeing a lot more of him in years to come. With the player set to return to Fiorentina for next season, there is every chance he will make his full Azzurri debut sooner than many might think.

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Have your say...
Wow. I simply do not agree with most of the comments I'm reading here. First of all, lets not forget that the italy national team last world cup failed with embarressment to advance out of the group stage. Then Prandelli takes over, revamps the whole team with an attacking style, and giving players like Cassano a chance. Since prandelli took over, italy were the finalist in the Euro, and 3rd place in the Confeds. I personally think he is an exceptional coach.
on the 16th April, 2014 at 3:18pm
We don't need Osavaldo in this world cup. Am an Indian I like Italian football team very much. osavaldo is fully waste i think Federico Bernardeschi, rossi, El Shaarawy will do good job in 2014 worldcup.
on the 16th April, 2014 at 12:52pm
siva melchizedek
its best to leave verrati out of your comments, he completes the second most passes in europe (second to xavi) only difference is xavi completes his at 92% while verratti is a mere 94%, and i agree about the inferior leagues epl ligue1 etc however the tempo in those leagues are higher than serie a which is more strategy and tactics rather than just running. So verrati deserves his place in the squad. Forza italia!!
on the 16th April, 2014 at 5:13am
God Feste, my suspicion is that most posters here do not have the mental power to unlock your healthy sarcasm given the paucity of wit in 99.9% of the replies [yes Al, especially you... your stupidity reverberates widely, so take some care with your comments]
on the 15th April, 2014 at 3:10pm
I know, right? It's almost like Prandelli has access to knowledge that the average fan doesn't. It's simply unthinkable that a man who has played and coached at the highest level would know more about the players he's paid a lot of money to evaluate for years before the actual tournament might have a better idea than the general public.
on the 14th April, 2014 at 11:13pm
The thought of Bernardeschi playing on the right and El Shaarawy on the left supporting Destro or Balotelli really do excites many fans of the Azzurri. There are so many young players with big potential playing regularly in Serie B such as Daniele Rugani, Danilo Cataldi, Lorenzo Crisetig, and Nicola Leali that should make their step-up to Serie A next season. Really cannot wait for the Serie A Summer Mercato.
on the 14th April, 2014 at 9:00pm
I don't know about you guys but I am waiting close to my phone in case Prandelli calls me!
on the 14th April, 2014 at 8:28pm
its pointless to call all those. ..prandeli should b sure of what he wants.players who play in mediocre leagues like league one or epl should not be included esp verrati n giacherini
on the 14th April, 2014 at 7:10pm
Here is the lineup I would take to Brazil


Zaccardo, Oddo, Panucci

Pirlo, De Rossi, Montolivo, Motta

Del Piero

Toni, Gilardino
on the 14th April, 2014 at 5:20pm
Prandelli is a twit. Quicker we get rid quicker we get a manager that picks players for form and quality not names and hype. We need to use these players while they are young. Talk talk talk thats all he does. Then leaves it to few months before wc to try a make a new team gel!!! Get rid of this joke asap and get ancelotti on the bench- at least he isnt scared to say balo is a hype that is failing and wed almost certainly never see gila or aswaldo again either. This needs to happen asap
on the 14th April, 2014 at 4:30pm
The only thing positive to bank on is individual brilliance, wether it's Buffon playing out of his mind or G. Rossi natural god giving ability to find the back of the net or Pirlo. That only takes you so far though you need a team to win this prestigious tournament and your bench needs to be just as good as your starters. We have the individuals, but we don't have the team...period!
on the 14th April, 2014 at 3:40pm
Al - I agree with you to an extent, Cigarini's exclusion from the National set up is strange!
on the 14th April, 2014 at 3:31pm
Prandelli sucks!! He's changed since taking over 4yrs back, his ego shot up and I think this job is going to his head and he has gotten dumber every year. He contradicts himself all the time. We need Conte a no BS coach who don't play friendly with no one if you are not good enough you won't play and if you break his rules your done, no second chance. Prandelli is a pushover. They won't win nothing this summer they will be lucky do get by the round of 16.
on the 14th April, 2014 at 2:53pm
No point of calling him up if he has no chance of making the trip. Another over hyped talent until he comes to Serie A and makes a impression he shouldn't even be considered. How does he and almost more than half of these jokes get called up over Cigarini it's ridiculous wrong and pathetic and really embarrassing for Prandelli, I'm convinced he has a vendetta against him or something because other than that he has been with Pirlo the most consistent midfielder the last 3yrs. The Stats prove it.
on the 14th April, 2014 at 2:37pm

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