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Nov 14, 2013

Discovering Domenico Berardi

With such a display of superior ability, Juventus were always going to manage a win against Napoli. However, in order to close the gap at the top of the table, they needed high-flying Roma to drop points. For that, they relied on the ability of another Bianconero, or a future Bianconero starter if you will, Domenico Berardi.

- Report: Italy Chief: Kids, not hooligans

"It all started almost by accident three years ago when I got to Modena to visit my brother Francesco at University," the young forward explained in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport last year after a 2-1 win against Crotone. In that match he both scored and provided an assist. "I played football with some of Francesco's friends and one of them pointed me out to Luciano Carlino, assistant coach at Sassuolo's youth sector and he contacted me for a trial."

Recounting the story to Tuttosport, Carlino with a certain enthusiasm explained his feelings at witnessing the genius of the young player in action. "At that time, Domenico left everyone speechless. He was a phenomenon. I didn't even wait a day; I immediately went to my Sporting Director to ask him to give the boy a trial. Twenty minutes was enough for my Sporting Director, he took me aside and told me you're right, he's the best of them all," explained Carlino.

"He's a player from former times with an incredible hunger. Compared to the other good boys I've seen, Domenico was more determined and less spoilt than the average. From a technical point of view, it was enough to see him kick ten shots and score ten goals, all in the top corner. Impressive. He has a left foot capable of lethality from any position. For his light touch and ability to cut in with pace, he reminds me of [Arjen] Robben."

That fateful day in which the youngster played a simple game of football with his bother occurred in 2010, the same year Inter, Berardi's favourite side, won the treble. When giving the initial interview to La Gazzetta, he dedicated his goal against Crotone to his parents who were in the stands cheering him on. His mother Maria, a housewife and his father, Luigi, an employee of ANAS, a state owned corporation in charge of Italy's roads and motorways, were always aware of their son's passion for the sport. As a child, they enrolled him in a football school in Cosenza and would make the long journeys with him so that he may live out his dreams. Nothing came out of those early days, but Sassuolo changed his life forever.

Tall with long limbs and the ability to use both feet, the player possessed both intelligence and discipline. More importantly, he boasted the stature and ease of movement that made him almost impossible to control in a one-on-one situation. He scored goals, assisted others and raised the overall level of play within the side when he was on the pitch.

So convinced of his talent, Coach Eusebio Di Francesco promoted 'Mimmo', as he is affectionately known, to the senior squad in the summer of 2012. From then on, Sassuolo witnessed history being made as their squad, which included the wonderful talent of Berardi, secured their promotion to top-flight football.

Juventus were immediately interested in Berardi and, boasting a good relationship with Sassuolo, made known their interest in the player. More than simple footballing intelligence, the Bianconeri Directors were impressed by the boy's attitude and casual confidence. He was a fighter, not willing to be pushed around and determined to form part of the winning team.

Against Livorno last season, Mimmo was involved in a fight with the Livorno goalkeeper at the time, Vincenzo Fiorillo. Both were sent off and Berardi was later banned for three matches, thus missing the opening fixtures of the club's first ever Serie A campaign. That fracas on the pitch demonstrated the fire within the player, the competitive nature and the arrogance of the young forward.

Having lived through the frustration of owning a player like Alessandro Matri, who prior to a match had to apparently be coaxed into sparring with fitness coaches in order to get him motivated sufficiently for a game, the thought of investing in a player who needed no such nonsense to get the blood pumping was a welcome relief for Juventus.

Obsessed with wingers and forwards who can overcome the opponent, Berardi is the perfect player for head coach Antonio Conte, both on a sporting and psychological level. Versatile and intelligent, he can be deployed in any position across the forward line. Determined yet boasting a certain nonchalance to his game, Mimmo is ice cold when it comes to taking penalties and has already managed six goals in seven starting appearances to demonstrate the viciousness of his shots -- that is one goal every 94 minutes. When you consider the fact Cristiano Ronaldo manages approximately one every 60 minutes, the stats for the 19-year-old are mind-blowing.

For this year, the player, according to his agent Beppe Galli, will stay in Sassuolo for the sake of his development. Next year, he's likely to be an extra weapon in Juve's arsenal. Until then, the Old Lady hopes he can keep snatching points off their rivals for the title.

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