Domenico Berardi reveals he’s working on self-control, compares himself to Arjen Robben and shrugs off Juventus talk.
The fiery forward has one of the best goals per game ratios in Europe, as aged 20 he has scored 31 times in just 61 Serie A appearances.
“In September 2009 I went to Modena to see my brother,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I wanted to get a try-out and seek an opportunity. The year before I had tried out with Spal. In Modena I played five-a-side football with my brother and his friends.
“One day Sassuolo scout Pasquale Di Lillo came along and was struck by my style. He signalled me to Luciano Carlino, assistant manager of the Allievi youth team, who within three days had called me in for a trial. It went well and I just never went back home. I even left school that day.
“I immediately got along with Eusebio Di Francesco, as in 2012 I was included in the first team. He gave me my debut against Avellino in the Coppa Italia and before stepping on to the field signed my first professional contract.
“The incident that really made the difference happened just before my League debut. We were in Cesena, a fiery local derby with so many fans. Di Francesco called me over before announcing the line-up and asked: ‘If you start, will your legs tremble?’
“I immediately assured him I was fine, playing as if I was out there with friends. We won 3-0 and from there the run began taking us into Serie A.”
Berardi may only be 20, but his career has already seen quite a few controversial moments, most notably his ban from the Italy squad for failing to turn up for a tournament and a series of red cards.
“I made some mistakes that helped me to grow. At that time I was struggling with my situation and particularly when Di Francesco was sacked. I am trying to improve my self-control, but it’s not always easy.”
Berardi was Sassuolo’s top scorer and admits even he didn’t see that coming.
“I dedicated myself more to the team in a growth process, as I aspire to become a complete striker. After all, I am not exactly a hitman.
“The fact I’ve scored so many goals has surprised me too. Obviously I’m enjoying it! This season I hope to reach double figures again and maybe even beat my personal best of 17 goals.
“Who inspires me? Leo Messi for his technique and class. Zlatan Ibrahimovic for power and ability. If I look at the actual style of playing, then I feel more similar to Arjen Robben.”
Simone Zaza has already moved to Juventus, while the Bianconeri have an option on Berardi for next summer.
“I am and feel like a product of Sassuolo. I owe everything to this club, so I’m happy they bought me outright. It’s a dream for me to be here, as I used to be a ball boy behind Pomini’s goal and now I am his teammate.
“Juve are Juve, it’s pleasing to be associated with a big club and they can buy me next year, but I don’t want to think about it.
“I will reveal one incident. In 2006 I was 12 years old and a Juventus emissary came to see me in a youth tournament. He wanted to take me to Turin straight away, but I refused because I wasn’t ready to leave my family and my home in Calabria. I remember crying at the thought of leaving.
“As a child I was an Inter supporter, but now I only cheer for motorsports, namely Ferrari and Valentino Rossi.”
Berardi is one of the Under-21 internationals expected to step up to the senior Italy squad this year.
“I hope so. I have three objectives for this season: score more goals, get Sassuolo comfortably mid-table and go to the Euros with Italy. For the last wish to come true, I must get the first two done.”