Roberto Gagliardini has certainly had an incredible rise in the past year, as he made the step up from Atalanta to Inter in January. This has also seen him included in the Azzurri squad for the first time and with nicknames such as ‘The Italian Pogba’ being thrown about, much is expected, but is he ready?
When you look at the Nazionale’s midfield and identify that Daniele De Rossi and Marco Parolo have both seen better days, the attention quickly turns to Marco Verratti. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder has already cemented his name in the middle of the pitch, but there is now another partner for him. Gagliardini is quickly proving at Inter that with his skill sets, he could either deputise or even play alongside the 24-year-old in a duo that could represent the future of the national team.
Gagliardini is a product of the famed Atalanta youth system and started to fulfil some of his great potential in the opening part of the season. So much, that he was courted by Juventus, but it was the Milanese club that acted quickly in securing his signature. He openly admits that he was happy in Bergamo and hadn’t even thought of a move away, but was happy to come and ply his trade at San Siro.
The Nerazzurri certainly paid for potential, splitting the €28m cost into three instalments. It was €2m for the loan until June 2018, €23m hereafter and up to €3m bonuses. In context, this seemed to be a large sum of money for a player who hadn’t seen that much action in Serie A. With loan spells at Cesena, Spezia and Vicenza under his belt, the 22-year-old finally made his first team debut in May 2016 and after only nine appearances he saw himself called up by Gian Piero Ventura.
His influence for Inter has been immediate, as he has slotted straight into the midfield role and given Stefano Pioli’s side a balance they had lacked before. He has developed into a metronome, receiving the ball and distributing it quickly, often starting offensive moves from a deep position. This box to box mentality shows off his industry, finesse and ability to do the simple things well, allowing players like Joao Mario to flourish even more.
Admittedly he isn’t the quickest player, but he doesn’t need to be and he, by his own admission, is working hard to be more clinical and bring goals to his game.
It is this desire to improve his creative and offensive side that could make him an ideal man to play alongside Verratti in Ventura’s Azzurri squad. Both players can defend and distribute the ball incredibly well and the fact that the national team would have two players who could both ‘hold and go’ would be of benefit for the wing-backs, giving them an unpredictable creative threat. As Gagliardini’s season with Inter develops, it is almost certain that his tactical knowledge and ability to play at a high level will improve. The speed of his transition into the Nerazzurri squad has already displayed how quickly he can adapt and integrate into new surroundings of greater quality.
The future is bright for the Azzurri and Gagliardini is one of the shining lights. Few times have players with so little experience made such an impact and fitted so quickly in to one of Serie A’s biggest teams. His maturity and ability outweigh his tender years. He is a player who could slot in alongside almost any other style of midfielder, as his greatest asset is to move the ball from defence to attack with speed.
He has much to work on, although it is more a case of polishing yet another diamond from Bergamo.