Arriving in Serie A last season, Sassuolo’s exciting brand of attacking football took Italy by storm, the Neroverdi winning over an audience excited by their approach. Led by talented coach Eusebio Di Francesco, the fact the club owned both its own stadium and fielded many young players made them a model for others to follow.
The jewel in their crown was undoubtedly Domenico Berardi, a versatile attacking player with a heady combination of skill, pace and personality that made him a highly sought-after star. Juventus had already identified his potential however, taking a stake in his future thanks to the league’s co-ownership rules.
This column from last summer argued that the player was ready to be given a chance with the Turin giants, but it was ultimately decided he should remain with Sassuolo for another year. Now, 12 months on and with co-ownership now outlawed, Berardi’s future is one of the biggest transfer stories on the horizon.
Those events make now a perfect time to take stock of his season, looking again at whether or not the 20-year-old is ready to join Massimiliano Allegri’s squad for the 2015-16 campaign. Others—such as Palermo’s Paulo Dybala and Franco Vasquez—have gathered much more attention this season, but how has Berardi performed?
In simple terms, he has arguably bettered his debut Serie A campaign, recording 14 goals and nine assists, which compares favourably with his 2013-14 marks of 16 and six, respectively. As was noted last week in the tweet below, it also draws a comparison with one of European football’s truly great players.
Standing his accomplishments up against those of Lionel Messi is ultimately a foolhardy endeavour with only one outcome, but it does show the impact Berardi has had in his first two years of top-flight football.
What matters now is that he continues to improve, and perhaps it is the “12 more appearances” part of that statistic that merits most attention. The reason for the difference is arguably the biggest cause for concern as Berardi has actually missed 14 games over the past two years due to suspensions.
Indeed, across his 60 Serie A appearances, the Sassuolo star has racked up a staggering 23 yellow cards while also being sent off on two occasions. It is a poor disciplinary record and is the one area of his game that has yet to show any improvement—although entering a dressing room filled with players like Gigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo would likely see his temperament change quickly for the better.
The other facets of his play have, despite the lack of headlines, almost all remained just as high in his second season. According to statistics from Squawka.com, his shooting accuracy remains constant—51 percent in 2013-14, 49 percent this term—while the same source shows he has created 45 clear scoring chances, up from the 41 he made 12 months ago.
Elsewhere, WhoScored.com shows a marginal improvement in his passing, connecting with 72.8 percent compared to last-season’s mark of 70.4 percent. In addition, Berardi has worked harder defensively, averaging 1.7 tackles and 1.0 interceptions per game, up from last-year’s marks of 1.3 and 0.8, respectively, in those same categories.
His agent believes he is ready to make the leap and challenge for a place with the reigning champions, Simone Seghedoni discussing his client’s future with the TuttoJuve website last week, but he warned that Berardi just wants to play (h/t Football Italia):
Sassuolo want to keep Domenico, while Juve really believe in him and therefore might want to bring him to Turin. The thing to evaluate is to make sure Domenico isn’t harmed, it’s important that he continues his current path of growth.
A club as big as Juve would be a wonderful thing, but we have to analyse the real possibilities. He has to play, and that can’t be ignored.
It is an issue that will certainly be resolved over the coming weeks, but Domenico Berardi is clearly ready to pull on the famous black-and-white stripes should he be given the opportunity to do so.