Dan Davis provides a detailed scout report on Federico Bernardeschi, Italy’s truly talented winger.
Italy has always been best known for its no nonsense footballers, who would be able to put in crunching tackles and always come out the other end unscathed. Names like Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and more recently Alessandro Del Piero immediately spring to mind when lists of the greatest ever Italian footballers are put together. However, Federico Bernardeschi could be the next big talent, and he seems certain to earn a move to Italian giants Juventus this summer.
Who is Federico Bernardeschi?
Federico Bernardeschi is a 23-year-old winger, born in Tuscany, Italy. At an early age, he began playing football at the age of six, with Atletico Carrara. Just a year later, he made the transfer to one of Empoli’s football schools, in Ponzano. The unsettled start to his youth career continued, until he made the switch to Fiorentina in 2003. They placed Bernardeschi into the ‘Pulcini’ age group, which is the first of five in Italian youth set-ups.
From there, the Italian progressed steadily through Fiorentina’s youth categories, before being sent out on loan to Crotone in Serie B, during the 2013-14 season. There he made his professional debut at 19 years of age, playing almost a full game against Pescara. Bernardeschi slowly began to show off his talents in a prominently attacking role, often finding himself inside the box to sweep home counter-attacks. His ability over dead ball situations also often saw him take free kicks and penalties for Crotone – which helped him to score 12 goals in the 39 games he spent out on loan. Following this successful loan spell, Crotone exercised the option to buy half of Bernardeschi’s contract, in a co-ownership with his parent club.
However, in June 2014, Fiorentina officially bought back the whole of the Italian’s contract, and promoted him into their first team. In his first full season in Florence, he made only ten appearances, scoring three goals, as an ankle fracture sustained in November saw his game time significantly reduced.
The next season saw the winger earn more minutes on the pitch, and being awarded the prestigious number 10 shirt. Bernardeschi was able to show off his talents even further, as he featured in 33 games in Serie A – scoring twice and picking up four assists in a predominantly wide position.
However, his most recent campaign has been his most successful to date, and potentially has earned him to a move to the Turin giants, Juventus. Bernardeschi scored 11 times, and picked up four assists, as he helped Fiorentina to an eighth place finish.
What is his Style of Play?
Bernardeschi is an incredibly mobile player, who is naturally gifted, and particularly well known for his impressive agility and dribbling. His preferred role is out on the wing, which allows him opportunities to cut inside and use his powerful strike, or pick out a cross into the box for his team mates. He is not afraid to take on opponents alone either, as he often uses his stronger left foot to jink past opponents and present himself with opportunities, rather than relying on assistance which could stunt the pace of a counter-attack.
Off the ball, Bernardeschi is able to make use of his movement to pull an opponent’s defence apart, allowing his fellow attacking players to make use of the newly created space. His quick-thinking also means that Fiorentina have used him in various offensive positions, such as a second striker, or a deeper play-maker. His tactical versatility has seen pundits label him as similar to Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero and even Roberto Baggio.
What are his Strengths?
His lightning mobility is a key reason why defenders struggle to keep track of his runs. Despite his left foot being his preferred one, Bernardeschi has been known to shoot and cross with his right, meaning this unpredictability has seen him create many chances at all his previous clubs. Despite his slender build, he is also surprisingly strong. This allows him to hold the ball up on a counter-attack, and wait for any support. However, because of his quick-thinking in possession, the Italian can also use his pace and exploit any indecisiveness from opponents, which was a key trait in helping him improve on his goal tally last season.
Despite Bernardeschi seeming to favour playing out wide, his tactical versatility has seen him playing out of his comfort zone the past season. In the opening fixture of Serie A, he was played behind the striker as an inside forward, where he had the freedom to remain central and spread the play out wide. However, Paulo Sousa, the Fiorentina manager, has also played Bernardeschi in a wing-back role, where he is given freedom to roam the right-hand side of the pitch, although with an added defensive burden.
What are his Weaknesses?
Despite there being no glaring gaps in his ability, there are elements of his game that Bernardeschi could improve on. His mobility going forward is enough to exploit defensive weaknesses, but his crucial passes can sometimes be lacking. This means that attacks are broken down too often, as his final ball is either misdirected or easily cut out.
His finishing in the final third could also be improved upon, to help the Italian achieve his full potential. Despite noticeably improving on his shooting last season, he could take more time to compose himself when taking his shots, rather than snatch an effort at goal. This would certainly help him to tuck away more chances. However, with a potential transfer to Juventus on the cards, where he is positioned by Allegri will fully determine if Bernardeschi is able to fully realise his limitless potential.
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