The plaudits for Domenico Berardi have flowed as freely as the goals in his debut season, with some of the greatest names in Italian football queuing up to lavish praise on the Sassuolo youngster.
The first top-flight campaign of his career has been the stuff of fairytales, his four-goal haul against Milan in January catapulting him to continental prominence.
It would hand his side a famous victory, ending the tenure of beleaguered Rossoneri boss Massimiliano Allegri and ushering in the Clarence Seedorf era. Shortly after, legendary Milan coach would extol the virtues of the young winger in his Gazzetta dello Sport column (h/t SoccerTranslator.com):
Berardi is a player of the greatest talent, a modern footballer who plays with and for the team, all over the pitch, all of the time. His vivacity, intuition, temperament, physical strength, united by endurance and a good technique make up a great part of his tool kit.
High praise indeed, but as many of Europe’s top clubs scrambled to learn more about the talented 19-year-old, they would be left ultimately disappointed.
With TuttoMercatoWeb.com (h/t Here is the City) reporting interest from Manchester United, they would discover Juventus had already pounced, spending a surprising €4.5 million to secure a 50 per-cent stake in the winger.
The Bianconeri's Sporting Director, Fabio Paratici, had identified Berardi’s talent the previous season, looking on as the left-footed player recorded 11 goals in 37 appearances.
Even more surprising than the initial outlay by the Turin giants was that those matches in the second tier were his first as a professional and Berardi had only been playing organised football since 2010.
Spotted at a university game as Berardi visited his brother in Modena, the head of the Sassuolo youth system, Luciano Carlino, got him a trial with the Neroverdi, which he passed with flying colours.
Quickly promoted, he would be part of the first-team squad within two years, a meteoric rise which has yet to show signs of abating, as he has weighed in with 16 goals and six assists this term.
With three hat-tricks to his name and Sassuolo’s Serie A survival already assured, the question now is whether Berardi will join Juventus this summer.
Answering that is a complex issue because, while the Bianconeri have enjoyed a record-setting season, there is clearly room for improvement, as their early Champions League exit clearly highlighted.
The simplest and most obvious solution is to slightly alter the playing formation, creating space for an attacking player with pace and skill. Juve’s search for a talented winger has led to links with names such as Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez, respected journalist Gianluca Di Marzio reporting on his own website that the player would accept a return to Italy.
Signing one or more of these players would allow Antonio Conte much more tactical variation, perhaps giving him the attacking options to enjoy a much deeper Champions League run.
Suggesting Berardi could be the man to fill that void for a much lower cost seems to fit well with the shrewd mentality displayed by Director General Beppe Marotta over the last four years.
The player’s lack of experience would appear to be the only major knock on taking that route, which seems churlish given that he has thrived every time he has been asked to raise his standards.
A devastating force in both youth team football and Serie B, he has now swept all before him in the peninsula’s top division, adding goals against Fiorentina and Roma to his demolition of Milan.
The man who discovered him has no doubts over his talent, Carlino remarking in an interview with TuttoSport (h/t the Daily Mail) that Berardi’s “light touch and ability to cut in with pace” remind him of Arjen Robben.
If that comparison is premature, the same could not be said of a decision to bring him to Turin now and pit him against the elite teams of Europe.
Will he play for Juventus next season? Perhaps. Should he? Absolutely. Domenico Berardi is ready.