Not many soccer fans, especially those in the United States, have probably ever heard of Italian Serie A side Sassuolo Calcio or their 19-year-old phenom Domenico Berardi. But this is a player that is destined for stardom, and his name should not be forgotten. For starters, Sassuolo is a modest side from the north of Italy that currently sits in 17th place in Serie A, not that they are probably too bothered by that. They are just happy to be in Italy’s top division.
After winning the Serie B during the 2012-13 season, Sassuolo was promoted to Serie A for the first time in their 92 year history, and they are determined to make the best of it. It is always tough for any promoted side in any league to come into a top division and perform, and in truth, Sassuolo have struggled this year, dipping in and out of the relegation zone. After losing their first four games in a row, including a 7-0 trouncing at home to Inter Milan, Sassuolo picked up their first Serie A points in a surprise 1-1 draw away at title hopefuls Napoli. Despite their poor start to life in the big leagues, the bright spot has undoubtedly been the goal scoring of on-loan forward Berardi.
Berardi first made a name for himself in Serie B with Sassuolo by scoring 11 goals in 37 games during his first season as a professional, attracting interest from Italian champions Juventus, who signed the teenager and sent him back to Sassuolo on a season-long loan for the 2013-14 season. After playing in 15 of Sassuolo’s 19 Serie A matches, Berardi already has 11 goals to his name, putting him second in the goal scoring charts behind American-born, Italy striker Giuseppe Rossi and ahead of household names like Carlos Tevez, Rodrigo Palacio, Gonzalo Higuain and Italy’s Alessio Cerci and Mario Balotelli.
Having already scored a hat-trick in a 3-4 away win at Sampdoria, as well as grabbing a 94th minute equalizer in the Italian capital against AS Roma earlier in the season, Berardi is surely the future for the Italian National Team. As if that weren’t enough, he has even written himself into the Serie A history books by scoring four goals against Italian giants AC Milan en route to a 4-3 home win at the Stadio Città del Tricolore, making him the the youngest player ever to score four goals in an Italian top-flight match and the only player to ever score four against Milan.
To put it in perspective, Balotelli, who is considered one of the best forwards in the world for club and country, only scored nine goals in 29 games for Inter milan as a 19-year-old, and was part of the Inter team that won the Champions League under Jose Mourinho in 2010. Sassuolo certainly won’t be winning Serie A, let alone the Champions League any time soon, which makes his goals even more impressive. It’s too early to tell if Berardi will turn out to be as good as Super Mario, and for now, he should continue to focus on his goalscoring form and help Sassuolo avoid relegation. But with Rossi’s unfortunate knee injury that will likely keep him out of the 2014 World Cup, don’t be surprised if Berardi is a shock inclusion in Cesare Prandelli‘s Italy squad come June.