The name Domenico Berardi hasn’t been used in the transfer rumor mills for the last couple of years, but there was a time, not too long in the past when the forward was touted as the hottest property in Italy. A quick, tenacious, technically gifted and hardworking right-winger, with an eye for goal. Berardi captured the attention of the elite clubs of Italy as a teenager playing for Sassuolo in Serie B.
Berardi joined the youth academy of Cosenza at the age of 13, he had only been discovered by scouts when playing five-a-side with his brother at University. He promptly joined Sassuolo’s youth system at 16 and two years later he made his debut for the first team on 27 August 2012, at the age of 18, in Serie B against Cesena.
The Cariati born player first gained recognition on the back of his superb debut season for Sassuolo. He scored 11 goals and had 6 assists to his name in the 2012-13 Serie B season. His superb performance for the Neroverdi in his debut season helped the club win the Serie B title, thus achieving direct promotion to Serie A and ensuring the club’s first ever top-flight campaign. He was also named Best Player of the Serie B season in the annual Gran Galà del calcio awards. He was described as the “undoubted star” of Eusebio Di Francesco’s Sassuolo team.
Juventus came calling. Juventus and Sassuolo agreed to an unusual arrangement known as co-ownership. Juve owned 50 percent of Berardi’s rights, but he remained at Sassuolo for the 2013-14 season on loan. He made his Serie A debut at the age of 19, in a 1–1 away draw against Napoli and scored his first Serie A goal from a penalty in a 3–1 defeat to Parma. Berardi carried his super run of from into the top-flight as he finished the season with 16 goals and 6 assists. He scored three hat-tricks including all four goals in a 4–3 home win against AC Milan. His success in Serie A established him as the hottest prospect of Italian football.
In July 2014, it was confirmed that Berardi will stay at Sassuolo for another season, the co-ownership deal was also renewed. He followed up his excellent debut Serie A season with 15 goals and 10 assists in 2014/15 season. In June 2015, when Italian FA outlawed the co-ownership system, Sassuolo quickly paid €7.3 million to Juve and took full ownership of Berardi. However, Juventus still had the first option to buy him, an agreement formed out of the close relationship between Sassuolo and the Bianconeri.
The following season, Berardi managed only seven goals and six assists, but those figures were clearly affected by defences keying in on him and he was often able to act as decoy for others, still playing a vital role as Sassuolo qualified for the Europa League.Juve tried to exercise their option on him at the end of 2015/16, but the player refused, citing a desire to play regularly rather than be on the Bianconeri bench.
His decision to snub a move to the Old Lady in order to get more first team action was applauded by many. He started the 2016/17 season as the star man of the Neroverdi. He managed 10 goals and 11 assists in all competition despite being out of action for a lengthy period of time due to a knee ligament injury. At the end of the season, he signed a new long term contract with the club.
Since his return from injury, Berardi’s form has gone significantly cold as he only managed to score 11 Serie A goals in the next two seasons. Domenico Berardi was once Italy’s most highly regarded youngster and was on the radar of every big club in Europe. He is currently churning out mediocre performances for a club battling to retain their top-flight status. However, he’s only 24 and there is still time for him to achieve greatness as he was once labelled.