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Is Domenico Berardi ready for Juventus?

Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

A year ago, Juventini worldwide were singing Beppe Marotta praises for signing half of Domenico Berardi's contract. And with good reason — the then 19-year-old had scored 12 goals and had six assists. By the end of the season, the youngster totaled 16 goals and nine assists in Serie A. His first top-flight season was so impressive that most fans were  calling for Marotta to bring Berardi to Turin right away.

However, it was Berardi who asked to stay in Emilia-Romangna for one more year. A decision that I understood and applauded at the time.

Fast-forward a few months and the rumors about Berardi have noticeably diminished. No one is kicking and screaming at the management for failing to bring the youngster to Turin. Moreover, it seems like other neroverdi players — Simone Zaza, for example — are more desirable commodities at the moment. So why is Berardi not as readily linked with Juve anymore?

At first, I thought that Berardi must have scored more goals last season, but that is not really it. If you look at the table below, over the same period of time, Berardi scored three fewer goals than last season but added three more assists. So when looking at his impact on the team's results you can call his input even over both years.

2013-14 2014-15
Goals 12 9
Assists 6 9
Number of games
scoring or assisting
9 12

Berardi's numbers after 29 matches

Two things that have changed from last year are: 1) The opposition takes Berardi and Sassuolo more seriously, and 2) Berardi is playing farther away from goal and more centrally. Last year, Berardi was fouled many times in the opposition's 18 yard box resulting in penalties which he proceeded to score. This year that is not the case. Other teams ensure Berardi is brought down outside the box or is double teamed when he is inside the area (remember this point, we'll get back to it later). Also, looking at heat maps, it seems that Berardi is playing closer to the midfield and more centrally than last year. This new position is making it harder for Berardi to score goals. Not that this matters that much for Sassuolo as they are doing much better with these new tactics.

More importantly, last year Berardi seemed to be on fire in some games and then dropped off the face of the earth in others. As we know, consistency is key when playing at a big club like Juventus. Last season, Berardi scored two hat-tricks (Sampdoria and Fiorentina) and put four past Milan. That means that 10 out of the 16 goals he scored all season came from three matches. In other words, 60 percent of Berardi's goals happened is less than 8 percent of the season's matches. This year his numbers tell a different story. He has contributed with goals or assists — or both — in 12 out of the 29 matches played. By comparison, Carlos Tévez has contributed with goals and/or assists in 16 matches so far.

More so than goals we should talk about the elephant in the room: Berardi's discipline (or lack thereof).

It is undeniable that Berardi is a hot head. This year, he has been suspended for five matches — three games for red card suspension and two for yellow card accumulation. You think those numbers are bad, think again. Last year he was suspended for eight matches at the same point in the season.

In my opinion, his red cards come mostly from having to carry the team on his back. Berardi is prone to these outbursts when the team is losing and frustration sets in. At Juve, that will not necessarily be the case. If Juventus is losing, all eyes will turn to Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal, Tévez, Álvaro Morata, Andrea Pirlo, before they go on to Berardi. Of course, there is also self-imposed pressure, but the leadership of Leonardo Bonucci, Gigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and others are likely to help him control his temper.

The yellow cards are a different story. Berardi is the first line of defense for Sassuolo — he presses the opposition relentlessly and sometimes dives into tackles. I think this makes him an ideal player as Juve becomes a possession-based squad. If he can learn from Vidal or Tevez how to tackle more effectively, his value to the squad could be immense.

Berardi's disciplinary record may be somewhat similar to Mario Balotelli or Antonio Cassano, however, I don't believe that young Domenico is a locker room cancer like the other two. Besides, Balotelli and Cassano may have turned into different players had they joined Juve at a young age.

So, should Juventus still bring Berardi to Turin this summer?

This one is a little harder to answer. Bringing Berardi as a centerpiece for next year's tactical setup is likely to put unnecessary pressure on the player. On the contrary, he should be eased into the team the way Morata was. He can play games in which Juve are leading, then asked to help win matches, then we can depend on him pulling a rabbit out of the hat. That is not to say that he shouldn't feel the weight of the shirt, but I am sure that the old guard will ensure he understands what it means to play for Juventus. Moreover, having Daniele Rugani and Stefano Sturaro, two players who Berardi knows from the Italy youth teams can only help with his acclimatization.

Max Allegri needs to know that if Berardi comes to Juve, he has to give him minutes. That may be easier said than done given the number of new young players expected next year. Rugani and Zaza will need minutes, and if Juve bring Paulo Dybala, that may be too many changes for the squad. Team management next year will be very tricky to say the least. It brings me some comfort to know that Allegri is probably one of the better coaches when it comes to handling youth. After all, he successfully introduced Stephan El Shaarawy, Mattia de Sciglio, and Morata to important roles in their teams. Berardi could be the most talented player out of that bunch.

If he were to come to Juve his impact could be immense. First he will allow Juve to play a number of formations requiring wingers (4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, even 4-4-2). Second, he has shown to be tactically astute and technically capable. In two years, opposition coaches have not been able to effectively stop him. Milos Krasic and Gervinho were great for one season and one-trick-ponies the next.  And third, if you think about what he has been able to do at Sassuolo, now imagine what he could do at Juventus. Remember how I said that now he is double teamed when stepping into the 18-yard box? At Juve, if you dedicate two markers for Berardi that means that someone has to stop watching Morata, Tevez, Vidal, Pogba, Claudio Marchisio, etc. If that is not an exciting prospect, I don't know what is.