Teenager Domenico Berardi: The Solution to Juventus' Long-Term Striking Needs

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Teenager Domenico Berardi: The Solution to Juventus' Long-Term Striking Needs
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Domenico Berardi celebrates one of his three goals against Sampdoria. The talented youngster will be a Juventus player as early as next year.

On deadline day this past summer, Juventus completed a transfer move that saw them secure a co-ownership in Sassuolo forward Domenico Berardi.

The deal was for €4.5 million and saw 50 percent of midfielder Luca Marrone's rights travel in the opposite direction and kept Berardi with the Neroverde during the 2013-14 season.

So far the Bianconeri cannot be happier with the form of their new signing, who may be the long-term answer to the striking needs that have plagued Juventus for years.

Throughout the first two years of the Antonio Conte era, it was the forward line that held Juventus back. Conte and president Giuseppe Marotta tried in successive transfer windows to find themselves a top-of-the-line forward that would give the Bianconeri's climb back to their former glory a leg-up.

This season they succeeded in securing the services of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. The latter took some time to get on his feet after his contract feud with Athletic Bilbao kept him off the field for most of last season, the former took off like gangbusters. Their partnership has finally begun to develop, though, and results are promising.

But Tevez is 29 and Llorente 28.  They are in their primes right now, but those primes won't last more than a few years. With the current economic problems plaguing Italy, younger players are going to be that much more important, which is where Berardi suddenly looms large.

Standing 6'1", Berardi is a left-footed forward who can play anywhere along the line. According to WhoScored.com, he has scored seven times and notched two assists in the 10 starts and one sub appearance so far this season. Those seven goals include a hat trick in a thrilling 4-3 win against Sampdoria, a last-gasp equalizer against then-leaders Roma and the opener in the team's first ever top-flight victory against Bologna.

Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
Berardi (No. 25) celebrates with his teammates after his last-minute equalizer against Roma.

He has also shown a deft touch in dead-ball situations, as can be seen from this beauty of a strike in Serie B last year against Lanciano. But his most important attribute is his versatility along the line.

After last year's throttling at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, it was clear that Juventus needed to be able to diversify their tactical bag of tricks. The 3-5-2 that has served Conte so well in league play succumbed to the brilliant wide play of Arjen Robben in that tie.  The Bianconeri needed a formation that could better deal with teams that deployed wide men the likes of Robben.

A 4-3-3 would be ideal in that capacity, but Juve doesn't really have the best personnel for that kind of formation. Berardi's ability to play the wings and cut inside at speed would be ideal for playing the wings of a 4-3-3  He's not the best crosser in the world, but his cutting ability—which is comparable to AC Milan's Stephan El Shaarawy—mitigates that weakness. Instead of crossing from the wings Berardi can get through to the penalty area and lay off to teammates from closer range.

On a less tangible level, Berardi is exactly the kind of player Antonio Conte likes. The manager prefers players who run forever and aren't afraid to get their noses dirty. Berardi gets back and helps on defense and is never afraid to stick a foot in. He averages 1.4 tackles—and 2.3 fouls—per match.

The intensity he brings to his play is exemplified by a late-season fracas last year between Berardi and Vincenzo Fiorillo, then the goalkeeper at Livorno. ESPN's Mina Rzouki refers to the fight in her profile of the youngster published in November. The altercation saw both of them sent off and Berardi suspended, which is why Sassuolo was without him for the first few weeks of the season.

That kind of passion would be a welcome change for fans who have watched uninspired forwards like Alessandro Matri, Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic (or at least Bad Mirko) loaf around the field firing shots into the crowd.

Berardi is already an incredibly capable player, and the astonishing thing is that this is only his second professional season. He has insane room for growth. His acquisition brings to mind the purchase of another 19-year-old forward that Juventus made 20 years, one month and 24 days before.

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That forward likewise had two professional seasons under his belt before joining Juventus, as Berardi will when he likely moves to Turin next year. He only went on to play for the team for 19 years, wear the captain's armband and set club records in appearances and goals.

You might have heard of him. His name is Alessandro Del Piero.

Don't get me wrong, no one is calling this youngster the second coming of Il Pinturicchio—yet. The sky is the limit for this youngster, and if he continues on his current trajectory he could turn into Juve's next great attacking player.

And Juve fans can't wait to see it.

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