Inter’s Nicolo Barella enhanced his growing reputation further with a masterful midfield display against Juventus in Sunday night’s Derby d’Italia.
Antonio Conte’s side, thanks to goals from Arturo Vidal and Barella ran out 2-0 winners at the San Siro – increasing their lead over the Old Lady to six points.
The 23-year-old’s second-half strike after he got on the end of an incredible pass from Alessandro Bastoni, another one of Italian football’s brightest young stars, was his second Serie A goal of the campaign.
Arguably the standout player on the pitch across both sides it was also Barella’s cross that Vidal headed home to open the scoring after just 12 minutes – further evidence of his growing influence on the team.
Signed from Cagliari in September of last year for a reported fee of £25.2m, the Italian international has already made 66 appearances for the Nerazzurri; but for many, Barella is a bit of an unknown quantity and not many outside of Italy know about his strengths as a mezzala.
Versatility across the various midfield roles is something Barella has long been hailed for. His tactical flexibility allows coaches to adjust their system in-game safe in the knowledge he’ll be able to adapt seamlessly and that, nowadays, is worth it’s weight in gold.
Add to that, his impressive passing range coupled with his aggression in the middle of the park and you could argue the former Cagliari man is almost the complete midfield player. Having already earned 18 caps for Roberto Mancini’s national side, he is very much a key component of the new-look team the former Manchester City boss is building.
Barella’s ability to switch from a dogged midfielder hunting down his opponents aggressively without the ball to a cultured playmaker with it at his feet, almost at the switch of a button makes him a very special footballer.
One of the criticisms levelled at him in the past is that at times, in terms of his passing, he can be a little too risk-averse but based on his displays so far this season that feels a little harsh. His move to one of Serie A’s big hitters means he is now in a side who spend far more time playing on the front foot and perhaps that’s why some of the critics have gone quiet.
Conte, throughout his managerial career, it’s fair to say has preferred to put his faith in more experienced players, seasoned professionals if you like – hence the re-signing of Arturo Vidal during the summer transfer window, a player whom he has already won three Scudetti with.
However, if you review the campaign so far, it could certainly be argued the 33-year-old has been outshone by the more youthful Barella.
If Inter can hold onto Barella for seasons to come, he certainly has the technical attributes and the temperament to go on and become a legend at the club. But first, all focus must be on the task at hand, to close the gap on their city rivals at the top of the division and win their first league title in over a decade.