Roberto Mancini Weighs In on Nicolo Barella Exit Rumours Amid Chelsea Links

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2019

GENK, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 20: Nicolo Barella of Italy  during the  International Friendly match between Italy  v USA  at the KRC Genk Arena on November 20, 2018 in Genk Belgium (Photo by Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Italy national team manager Roberto Mancini has warned Cagliari's Nicolo Barella to be careful when choosing his transfer destination amid persistent links to Premier League giants Chelsea.

The rising star is one of Serie A's hottest prospects, and the Blues reportedly see him as the perfect replacement for Cesc Fabregas. Per Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Goal's Chris Burton) Mancini praised the youngster but also pointed to the fact that he needs consistent playing time to continue his development:

"He has technique, quality, rarely loses the ball, is good in the air despite not being tall, never gives up and tends to push forward, but needs to also score a few more goals.

"Considering his age and the relative lack of Serie A experience, he has a strong grasp on his role already.

"Barella can set the example for the young Italian players out there who can give a little more to make that step up.

"He has enormous potential for growth and if he does leave Cagliari, he must be certain that he gets to play regularly.

"If he does go to a big club and is a first choice, then he can improve far more.

"However, if he risks spending half the season on the bench, he should stay put."

Cagliari have already ruled out a January exit, per Radiolina (h/t Football Italia), but that hasn't stopped the speculation. Matt Law of The Telegraph recently reported the Blues have a deal in place for the 21-year-old:

According to the Evening Standard's Simon Johnson a move for Leandro Paredes seems more likely, but Cagliari have seemingly found cover in the case of a departure:

Simon Johnson @sjstandardsport

His departure should also mean new #cfc signing is imminent. I've been off today but #Paredes seemed closer than #Barella last night. https://t.co/IIj6go625t

Simon Johnson @sjstandardsport

Possible significant news on #cfc's bid to sign #Barella. Boca Juniors have accepted a bid from Cagliari for midfielder Nahitan Nandez. Serie A club didn't want to lose Barella now but Nandez could be his replacement.

Burton also linked the midfielder with Inter Milan, but most top clubs in Serie A have been rumoured as a destination at this point.

Napoli, in particular, are seen as a real possibility, and the Italian press believe the Partenopei are favourites, via ESPN FC's Andrew Cesare:

Andrew Cesare @acrcalcio

Sky Sport Italia reporting Napoli are still favourites to land Barella. Says reports that Chelsea are on the verge of signing him are far from the accurate https://t.co/S409Baypxg

Barella is already a full Italy international and is closing in on 100 senior appearances for Cagliari despite his young age. A classic box-to-box player, he stands out for his versatility and well-rounded skill set, making him a perfect partner for a specialist passer or defender. Chelsea have elite options in both categories in Jorginho and N'Golo Kante.

He has already shown his ability to play next to Jorginho with the national team, where the two have quickly built some solid chemistry.

Cagliari seem determined not to part with their young star but are a relatively minor team from Sardinia with a limited budget. They sit seven points above the relegation zone and won't want to make any changes in January, but a summer move seems likely.