Domenico Berardi (Italian pronunciation: ; born 1 August 1994) is an Italian professional footballer who plays as a forward for Sassuolo and the Italy national team. He began his club career with Sassuolo in 2012, helping the team win the Serie B title and earn promotion to Serie A in his debut season, later also being named the best player of the competition. His prolific performances in Serie A saw him emerge as one of Italy's most promising young footballers, and earned him the Bravo Award in 2015. He is currently Sassuolo's all-time top-scorer.
Born in Cariati, Calabria, Berardi joined the youth academy of Cosenza at the age of 13, before moving to Sassuolo at the age of 16.
He made his senior debut for Sassuolo in Serie B on 27 August 2012, at the age of 18, in a 3–0 away win over Cesena, and scored his first professional goal five days later, in a 2–1 home win over Crotone. In November 2012, he was linked with a transfer to a number of English clubs. In 2013, he was named Best Player of the Serie B in the past season in the annual Gran Galà del calcio awards, after helping Sassuolo win the Serie B title, and an historic promotion to Serie A, scoring 11 goals. In June 2013, he was described as the "undoubted star of the side."
On 2 September 2013, Juventus confirmed via their official website that Berardi had joined the club on a co-ownership basis that saw Luca Marrone transfer in the opposite direction, both for a fee of €4.5 million. Berardi remained with Sassuolo on a season-long loan deal for the 2013–14 season. He made his Serie A debut at the age of 19, in a 1–1 away draw against Napoli, on 25 September 2013. He scored his first Serie A goal from a penalty on 6 October 2013, in a 3–1 defeat to Parma. On 20 October, he scored a penalty as Sassuolo defeated Bologna 2–1 for their first Serie A win, moving them off bottom spot. He scored a hat-trick, including two penalties, in Sassuolo's first ever Serie A away win, 4–3 against Sampdoria on 3 November 2013.
On 12 January 2014, Berardi scored all four goals in a 4–3 home win against Milan. In doing so, he became the second youngest player to score four goals in a single Serie A match – the youngest was the 18-year-old Silvio Piola in 1931 – and the first player to score four in a league match against Milan. On 6 May 2014, Berardi scored a first-half hat-trick in 4–3 away win at Fiorentina. He finished the season with 16 goals in 29 games in the league as Sassuolo avoided relegation.
In July 2014, it was confirmed that Berardi was to stay at Sassuolo for another season; the co-ownership deal was also renewed on 20 June 2014.
On 17 May 2015, he scored a hat-trick at the Mapei Stadium in a 3–2 win over A.C. Milan. He finished the 2014–15 Serie A season with 15 goals and 10 assists, and was one of the top assist providers in the league. He reached 30 league goals in 59 games, noted by UEFA to be quicker than the 70 matches taken for Lionel Messi to reach that milestone; at the age of 20, he also became the youngest player to reach 30 Serie A goals since 1958. On 25 June 2015, it was announced through an official statement that co-ownership was resolved in favour of Sassuolo for €10 million. It was reported that it was part of Simone Zaza's deal to Juventus. However, Juventus also retained the option to bring Berardi back to Turin in 2016.
Berardi opened the 2015–16 Serie A season with a Man of the Match performance in a 2–1 home win over Napoli, setting up Floro Flores's goal; however, he also picked up an injury during the match, which would reportedly rule him out for a month and a half. He returned to the pitch after an early recovery on 20 September 2015, coming on as a substitute in a 2–2 away draw against Roma. He scored his first goal of the season from the penalty spot in a 2–1 home win over Lazio on 18 October 2015. Sassuolo finished the league season in sixth place, sealing a spot in the third qualifying round of the 2016–17 UEFA Europa League.
On 28 July 2016, Berardi made his debut in European competitions in the first leg of a third-round UEFA Europa League qualifying match against FC Luzern, scoring his and Sassuolo's first ever goal in the competition from the penalty spot in a 1–1 away draw. In the return leg on 4 August, he scored twice in a 3–0 home win which allowed Sassuolo to advance to the play-off round. In the first leg of the Europa League play-offs, on 18 August, Berardi scored a goal and set up another in a 3–0 home win over Red Star Belgrade. On the opening match of the 2016–17 Serie A season three days later, he scored once again, from the penalty spot, to give Sassuolo a 1–0 away victory over Palermo. On 25 August, he scored yet another goal (his sixth in five matches) in a 1–1 draw against Red Star Belgrade in the return leg of the Europa League play-offs to seal a spot for Sassuolo in the season's Europa League group stage. On 28 August, he continued his goalscoring run, netting a goal in a 2–1 home win over Pescara, becoming the youngest Italian player since the 1994–95 season to score 40 goals in Serie A, and the second youngest player overall, behind Alexandre Pato, at the age of 22 years and 27 days; he later suffered an injury during the match, and it was later announced that he had suffered knee ligament damage, ruling him out for the rest of the calendar year. After being sidelined for almost four and a half months, Berardi returned to action as a second-half substitute in a 0–0 home draw against Torino on 8 January 2017.
On 24 August 2017, Berardi signed a five-year contract with Sassuolo.
On 19 August 2018, Berardi scored a goal from a penalty in a 1–0 home win over Inter, in the first match of the 2018–19 Serie A season.
Berardi was a component of the Italian under-19 national team, but did not answer his call-up for qualifications to the European Championship of the age group and was disqualified for nine months for violation of the code of ethics.
Berardi has played for the Italian under-21 national team. He received his first call-up on 28 February 2014, for the team's European qualifying match against Northern Ireland on 5 March. On 2 March, however, he elbowed Cristian Molinaro during Sassuolo's league fixture against Parma, and was subsequently excluded from the squad for violating the team's code of ethics. He made his debut under Italy under-21 manager Luigi Di Biagio on 4 June 2014, in a 4–0 home win over Montenegro. He scored his first goal on his third appearance for the azzurrini, the match-winning goal in a 3–2 win over Serbia in a 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying match, which allowed Italy to progress to the playoffs, and eventually qualify for the final tournament, which would be held in the Czech Republic.
On 1 June 2015, Berardi was selected in Di Biagio's 27-man provisional squad for the 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship; on 7 June, he was included in the final 23-man squad which would take part at the tournament. Berardi scored a goal from a penalty in Italy's opening match of the tournament, against Sweden, on 18 June, which ended in a 2–1 loss. On 24 June, he set up Andrea Belotti's goal in Italy's 3–1 win over England in Italy's final group match, although the result was not enough to see the Italian under-21 side progress to the semi-finals, as the azzurrini finished third in their group, behind the two eventual finalists Portugal and Sweden.
Berardi received his first senior international call-up for Italy from manager Antonio Conte in October 2015, ahead of Italy's UEFA Euro 2016 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Norway on 10 and 13 October; he suffered a muscular injury in Sassuolo's pre-match warmup against Empoli on 4 October, however, which forced him to pull out of the national side for the two upcoming fixtures.
In May 2017, Berardi was selected by Italy's senior head coach Gian Piero Ventura for the team's unofficial friendly against San Marino in Empoli on 31 May. He made his unofficial senior international debut in the match, captaining the squad, and starting in Italy's eventual 8–0 win, setting up Gianluca Lapadula's second goal.
In June 2017, he was included in the Italy under-21 squad for the 2017 UEFA European Under-21 Championship by manager Di Biagio.
Berardi made his official senior international debut for Italy under Roberto Mancini, starting in a 3–1 friendly loss to France in Nice on 1 June 2018.
Style of play
A quick, tenacious, technically gifted and hardworking left-footed forward, with an eye for goal, Berardi is capable of being deployed in several offensive positions on either side of the pitch, or through the centre; he has been utilised as a striker and as a supporting forward, although his preferred position is that of a winger, usually on the right side of the pitch, which allows him to cut into the centre and shoot on goal with his stronger left foot, or link up with teammates in order to create space and goalscoring chances. Berardi has also been praised for his movement, positional sense, and work-rate off the ball, as well as his determination, maturity, tactical intelligence, decision making, and composure, despite his young age; however, he has also drawn criticism at times for his behaviour, lack of discipline, and a tendency to pick up unnecessary cards. An accurate finisher from both inside and outside the area, and in one on one situations, he is also an accurate set-piece and penalty taker. Berardi is regarded as one of the most talented and promising young footballers of his generation; in 2013, 2014, and 2015, Don Balón listed him as one of the top-100 young players in the world.
In 2014, former Milan and Italy manager, Arrigo Sacchi, described Berardi as "a player of great talent, a modern footballer who constantly plays with and for the team all over the field. Liveliness, intuition, temperament, physical strength, stamina combined with a good technique are his main attributes." In 2015, 1982 FIFA World Cup winner Giancarlo Antognoni described Berardi as "...the young Baggio of this generation" and as "...the Sassuolo star that mixes creativity with strength. Just like when Platini called Baggio 'a nine and a half.' He must only learn to control his character. At times his temper betrays him but he will learn." In a 2015 interview, Berardi stated that his main influences as a footballer were Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimović, and Arjen Robben. A year later, he revealed Inter Milan as his childhood favorite team, calling Ronaldo and Diego Milito his biggest footballing idols at the time.
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