With names such as Gianluigi Donnarumma, Riccardo Orsolini, and Federico Chiesa to name a few, it is fair to assume that Italy are currently witnessing the birth of a generation loaded with the talent and potential to retrieve their nation’s reputation as an elite European powerhouse.
Although the current Azzurri squad is already a team capable of succeeding, the new generation of players breaking into Serie A’s calcio is far too good to be ignored. One player who belongs to this precious generation is Cagliari’s 20-year-old midfielder Nicolò Barella.
A product of Cagliari’s academy, Barella has flourished into one of the most exciting talents of his hometown club. Aside from a one-year loan spell at Serie B side Como last season; he’s only ever represented the Sardinian side at a professional level.
Standing at 1,76 meters, Barella doesn’t possess the size of most box-to-box midfielders; his small frame and deceiving baby face might not initially pose a threat to those who lineup against him, but that all changes the moment the whistle is blown.
Under head coach Massimo Rastelli, he is typically deployed as a left-sided central midfielder or mezz’ala in a 4-3-1-2 formation; a position that requires a high work rate on both ends of the pitch. His high pressing and intense zonal marking allow the former Como loanee to better influence The Sardinians in all aspects of the game.
On the ball, Barella carries a unique amount of skill capable of dribbling through defenders with pace and trickery. His quick feet and elegant touch give him the advantage to dribble out of danger and charge into space. I Rossoblu’s #18 however is much more than a shifty combination player. He carries the vision and passing ability of the traditional deep-lying playmaker aka regista, thus adding tactical flexibility to an already impressive set of attributes.
Off the ball, Barella seems to play with a chip on his shoulder. Despite his size, the U-21 Italy international is an extremely strong defender and a very disciplined marker. He isn’t afraid of diving into a challenge no matter how big a mismatch it may seem. In addition, his heart and determination combined with his intelligence and skill make him one of the most complete midfielders in modern day calcio.
Having been previously linked to clubs such as Chelsea and Liverpool, it is clear that Barella’s talent has not gone unnoticed in European football; although he owns the right elements to thrive in any league, Italy is -for now- the best place for Barella to develop his game and continue to mature as a footballer.
Barella has played every minute for Cagliari in the young season, with back-to-back solid outings against Juventus and Milan. Add to that his 28 appearances for Cagliari last season, and you’ve got a complete, young, and experienced midfielder with the potential of reaching stardom. He recently opened his Serie A scoring account with a goal against recently promoted SPAL. And in the eyes of Cagliari fans or anyone who’s watched him play, it would be right to assume that there’s a lot more we haven’t seen from Nicolò Barella.