Domenico Berardi: The Italian Teen Manchester United Are Battling Roma And Lazio For

Domenico Berardi was plucked out of obscurity following a simple kickabout at University. Can his fairy tale continue with a move into the big leagues?
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Domenico Berardi was plucked out of obscurity following a simple kickabout at University. Can his fairy tale continue with a move into the big leagues?

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Domenico Berardi: The Italian Teen Manchester United Are Battling Roma And Lazio For...

It is just about every young boy’s dream in Italy to become a professional footballer. From a tender age, if they are not watching the game then they are either out in the streets playing it or more than likely a member of a local pre-teen youth side. Some of them may even be signed to a professional club.

Domenico Berardi’s rise from unknown to potentially becoming a star of the future is one of those feel-good stories so beloved by Hollywood movie makers but rarely seen in the world of professional football.

Having just turned 18 in early August, the rangy striker has been an instant hit at Serie B side Sassuolo where he scored his first goal – a crisply-taken snap shot from the edge of the area - and set up another in only his second appearance in a win over Crotone at the beginning for September.

Domenico Berardi’s rise from unknown to potentially becoming a star of the future is one of those feel-good stories so beloved by Hollywood movie makers

The very fact that he is now playing professionally came about by accident some three years ago when he was visiting his brother who was at university in Modena.

He had all but given up his hope of playing football, having been released by Cosenza’ soccer school at 13, so he travelled north from the family home in Calabria to get a taste of the university life where his parents hoped he would follow in the footsteps of his elder sibling, only for him to return with a youth contract with in his pocket.

The Berardi brothers had been playing a bit of five-a-side football with some students and one of them was so impressed with the gangly teen with the quick feet that he contacted youth coach Luciano Carlino of local side Sassuolo who, taking the word of the “scout” and as with all lower league clubs, always on the look-out for new talent, offered Domenico a trial.

It may have been something of a shock for the family to see their son leave home so young but with the promise that his education would not suffer – his father is a civil servant - they gave their blessing and from there Berardi’s life changed .

In just two years he has gone from raw youth product to what many within the club believe as a star in the making. Sassuolo youth chief Paolo Mandelli  certainly believes so, having seen the young prodigy score 13 goals in his first season.

In just two years he has gone from raw youth product to what many within the club believe as a star in the making

“He is very attack-minded in his approach and the way he dribbles and runs he reminds me of a Brazilian player,” said Mandelli. “However, at times he can be a little too precise, but his pace and stamina are excellent and always shows for his team-mates which all top strikers need to do.”

After a season in the youth set-up where he gained international honours, but with no reserve football in Italy to toughen youngsters up against hardened professionals, most clubs send their developing players out on loan. However, Berardi was promoted to the first-team squad and was on the bench for the first leg of the play-offs against Sampdoria at the end of last season.

A return to the youth set-up would not have been expected but an impressive pre-season convinced coach Eusebio Di Francesco, who had been a player at AS Roma during Zdenek Zeman’s first stint in charge, that Berardi was ready for life in the competitive world of Serie B where you are either out to prove you deserve better or you are on the way down but not ready to call it a day.

Berardi falls into neither of these categories and his new-found fame has taken everyone, not least himself, by surprise.

Still to pass his driving test, he looks out for favourite club Inter’s results and has admitted that posters of Leo Messi and Zlatan Ibrahomivic still adorn his bedroom wall.

However, there is one area of his life that has suffered and that his studies. It may have been a chance kick-around at university that led to his big break but it is the furthest thing from his mind now, not with the likes of Manchester United and Juventus alerted to such an exciting talent.

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