When it comes to young Italian talent, the reigning Serie A champions have arguably cornered the market in recent years.
As the play of Ciro Immobile, Simone Zaza and Manolo Gabbiadini has made headline news, it has come with the caveat that the Bianconeri had already moved to secure a stake in each.
The co-ownership rules on the peninsula allowed the club to become part-owners of each player, giving them the opportunity to prove themselves with another side before looking at that all important question.
It is one that has also been asked of Daniele Rugani as he rose to prominence with Empoli and – as discussed in this column previously – one the 20 year old defender will be given chance to definitively answer, as it has already been announced he will play at Juventus in 2015-16.
For all their efforts in signing these gifted prospects however, we have yet to see one establish himself in the club’s first-team plans. Claudio Marchisio remains the sole youth sector product to graduate to the senior side, although the current management team – which only arrived in the summer of 2010 – seems intent on changing that as soon as possible.
Another youngster of whom the question is asked is Domenico Berardi, the supremely talented winger currently part of Eusebio Di Francesco’s attack-minded Sassuolo. Having helped the Neroverdi to become Serie B champions and secure promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history in 2013, both player and club would enjoy a breakout campaign the following year.
Despite only finishing in seventeenth place, Sassuolo won many admirers for their style of play and determination to field a largely homegrown side.
Indeed, of the 33 players used by the club last term, all but seven were Italian, and none made a bigger impression than Berardi. Celebrating his nineteenth birthday just before the opening game, he would overcome a slow start to register sixteen goals and six assists by the time the club had ensured their survival.
His name first came to the fore with a hattrick against Sampdoria, as Sassuolo registered their first away win in Serie A, but in truth he only fully came to wider attention when Milan travelled to Reggio Emilia in January. The Rossoneri were struggling, but nobody was prepared for the performance Berardi would deliver, netting four times as his side crushed Max Allegri’s ailing team and the result would ultimately see the coach fired.
The paths of the two men have taken equally surprising turns since that day, with Berardi’s name no longer regularly linked with a move to Turin. His future has become uncertain amid concerns over his temperament, as he has now racked up twenty yellow cards and two reds in just 54 top-flight appearances.
Yet the lack of attention both he and Sassuolo have received this term is somewhat strange given they continue to play that same refreshing brand of football with Berardi at the heart of all they do.
Currently sitting in twelfth place in the league, the 20-year-old star has arguably been more influential in his second season, again shining in the biggest matches.
Scoring against Fiorentina and Lazio, he also created both Sassuolo’s goals in a memorable 2-1 victory at San Siro, and watching him closely it is easy to see the maturity to his play, with numbers from WhoScored.com confirming that he has improved almost every facet of his game.
According to those statistics, he has completed more dribbles (1.2), passes (31.8) and tackles (1.9) per game this year, whilst also being fouled more often by opposition defenders who now know what to expect from him.
Indeed, only Chievo midfielder Perparim Hetemaj has suffered more fouls among Serie A players than Berardi, but his goal against Atalanta on Sunday took his tally for 2014-15 to ten.
Already matching last year’s total of six assists, it is clear that the doubts over his talent remain unfounded, with Arsenal linked with a move for him should the Bianconeri opt against bringing him to Turin this summer.
Like Arsene Wenger, those tasked with making decisions over players for the Old Lady – notably Director General Beppe Marotta and Sporting Director Fabio Paratici – rarely make mistakes, so it will be interesting to see how this particular deal is concluded.
Is Domenico Berardi ready for Juventus? It might be time to find out.