For the last five or six years, the Italian national team has been waiting in vain for some new young players to come through into Gli Azzuri’s squad. The obvious exception is Marco Verratti, but aside from him there hasn’t been many young players making their way into the squad. However, now we might be seeing a new crop of youngsters coming through, a generation of very promising players who are showcasing their talents each week in Serie A. This generation is spearheaded by Sassuolo forward Domenico Berardi and Fiorentina’s shining light, Federico Bernardeschi.
Bernardeschi is an interesting talent as he is truly a very modern player. He is a very creative player who is always looking to go forward and attack his opponent with his dribbling, or by putting in a cross or a through-ball for one of his teammates. Bernardeschi is also a dead ball specialist, and his shooting from distance is very good. In this article from last year, we discussed David Alaba and why he is the most modern player in the world. Modern in the sense that he is excellent in multiple positions, meaning he can play in defence, midfield and even attack and still bring qualities which make him a world-class player in multiple positions. This type of player has been described by some as universal and while Alaba is unique, Bernardeschi is developing into a universal player too.
Bernardeschi was born in the Italian city of Carrara in 1994, and joined Fiorentina’s academy as a nine-year-old in 2003. After rising through the ranks, and resisting offers from foreign clubs such as Manchester United, Bernardeschi was deemed to good for Primavera football in 2013 and was loaned out to Crotone in Serie B. In a very good team also containing the likes of Lorenzo Crisetig and Danilo Cataldi, Bernardeschi shone, scoring 12 goals in 39 appearances as Crotone pushed for promotion. Bernardeschi’s performances prompted Italian head coach Cesare Prandelli to call the youngster up to a pre-World Cup training camp. Even though Prandelli had no intention to bring the then 20-year-old to Brazil, it highlights the high esteem he was held in by the national team coach. Prandelli even said Bernardeschi was one of the best in his position in Italy, despite the youngster never having featured in a Serie A game. Prandelli has a history of doing this, as he also included Marco Verratti in a similar squad after the midfielder was outstanding for Pescara in Serie B in 2011/12.
Bernardeschi returned after the summer break and played 10 games for Fiorentina last year and scored three goals in a season mostly derailed by injury. Following the managerial appointment of Paulo Sousa and his expansive and attacking style, Bernardeschi has been trusted and is now enjoying regular football at his boyhood club. The 21-year-old is shining brightly too, with him already having played 12 games and scored one goal as well as having one assist. While these numbers might not be overly impressive, it should be remembered that Bernardeschi has played most of his games as the left wing-back.
Bernardeschi scored two goals against Gerard Pique’s Barcelona in a friendly in August 2015.
This is where it gets interesting. So far this season, Bernardeschi has appeared as left back, left wing-back, right wing-back, right winger and number 10. Before Sousa came into the club, Bernardeschi was seen as a trequartista (number 10) or a winger. As discussed in this analysis of Sousa’s system, the left wing-back becomes a left full-back when defending as the shape change from 3-4-2-1 to a 4-4-1-1. So instead of being pigeon holed as a winger, Bernardeschi has been given the opportunity to play in different roles which obviously help the team perform, but is also helping Bernardeschi flourish and the understanding he gains now for multiple positions is sure to help him develop into a fantastic player capable of excelling in most systems and styles.
This is why I believe Federico Bernardeschi will be one of the modern day players that will flourish in the future. Just like Alaba, he has shown he is capable of excelling in more than one position, and his skillset will make sure he continues to shine if he is given the trust he is now by Sousa. For the Italian national teams sake, Antonio Conte should start to bring this new generation into the squad because with the likes of Verratti, Berardi and Bernardeschi, the future looks extremely bright for Italian football.