Franco Vazquez: This season’s Serie A revelation

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Franco Vazquez has been something of a revelation in Serie A this season. The 26-year old Argentine attacking midfielder is contributing to a fine season for his club Palermo, the Sicilian outfit sit tenth in the table – after achieving promotion from Serie B just last season.

He was bought to Sicily in 2011 to replace Javier Pastore, who was sold to PSG for approximately €23m that summer. While succeeding his fellow countryman was not an easy task, Vazquez is finally proving that he has the abilities and talent to take over the reigns.

Vasquez and attacking team mate Paulo Dybala have formed an outstanding partnership up front. To put it into perspective, Palermo have scored 38 league goals so far this season — these two players have been responsible for 35 of them.

Dybala has received most of the praise for Palermo’s terrific season thus far, but for me, Vasquez is equally as important to Giuseppe Iachini’s side.

Franco has notched up 7 goals and 9 assists so far this season.  When you compare those statistics to other top performers (in his position) in the league, it’s rather impressive. See the graphic below:

A wonderful performance against Napoli demonstrated what a talented young man Vasquez really is. He was unstoppable in that league game last month - he struck a superb goal and created another in their 3-1 victory over the Champions League chasing Napoli. Below are the highlights from that performance, in which Vazquez labelled himself as ‘the perfect performance’.

Still yet to represent Argentina, there is talk that Italy head coach Antonio Conte may call him up. Vasquez qualifies to represent Italy because his mother is from Padua (North East of Italy).  Franco is more than open to the idea;

“My mum would be delighted. But she always told me to do what I felt was best for me. She didn’t have to do any convincing. I’ve always said that I feel half Italian. My mum is from Padua and I’ve got lots of relatives there. It would be an honour.”

He then added,

“For me, he’s (Conte) one of the best coaches in the world. You don’t win three scudettos in a row by fluke. He emits such a motivational air, just like our club coach [Giuseppe Iachini]. If Conte asked, I would even play in midfield — I’ve done it at Palermo so of course I’d do it for the national team.”

Vazquez may get to do it in March when Italy face Bulgaria in a Euro 2016 qualifier. If his performances continue, Franco could find himself at a big club come next season.


Written by Serie A Writer

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Italian football: A reflection of the nation’s rich, dramatic history

1982 World Champions

Italy is a beautiful, complicated, passionate country filled with a rich and dramatic history. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the country’s favorite sport of Italian football, or “calcio”, would be steeped in rich history… and drama, as well.


History of Italian Football

In 1898, the Federazione Italiana Giuco Calcio  was started in Turin, Italy. It was created to serve as the governing body for Italian football.

With Mario Vicary at the helm as the first president, the budding organization provided Italian football with the structure it needed to be taken seriously. In fact, according to FIGC.IT, their first championship, the “tri-colored championship”, was won by Genoa in Turin in 1898.

Having won the title for four World Cups in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006, today’s Italian National Football Team – the Azzurri - is the second most successful national team in the world. They are second only to Brazil, who has just one more World Cup trophy under their belt.

They also won the UEFA European Championship in 1968; took first place for the gold medal in the 1936 Olympic football tournament; and was a two-time winner of the Central European International Cup in 1927.


Game of the Century

One of the most notable and hard-fought games in Italian football history is the “Game of the Century” that took place between Italy and West Germany during the semi-finals of the 1970 FIFA World Cup. Played in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in the company of more than 100,000 fans, Italy won that game 4 – 3, after five goals were scored in extra-time. That was the first – and only - time in World Cup history that has happened.

Unfortunately, after such an exciting game, Italy fell to Brazil in the finals of that World Cup competition.


Scandal rocks Italian football

Over the years, Italian football has had its share of scandal. The most recent of which is the news of the betting scandal that broke at the end of June, 2011. Also, in that same month, a match-fixing corruption scandal hit the headlines, overshadowing the 2006 Calciopoli match-fixing case.


Italian National Football Team gets new management

Former Juventus manager Antonio Conte recently replaced Cesare Prandelli as the manager of Italy’s National Football Team, following the team’s disappointing elimination in the first round at the 2014 World Cup competition in Brazil. Another disappointing World Cup campaign for the Azzurri, which doesn’t match up and hold a candle to its glorious and memorable history in the game.

Here’s hoping to better times for Italian football.


Written by Ann Tiller

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The Boys in Green: The top 10 best players ever to don the Irish green jersey

Ireland may well be a small country but it is certainly not short on footballing talent. Over the years, many great players have donned with pride the green jersey of the Republic of Ireland. From the many years spent in the football wilderness to the heady days of Italia 90 and beyond, the Irish have, without doubt, had their fair share of football legends.

The Top 10, in no particular order…


Liam Brady

Liam was born in Dublin on 13 February 1956. From 1972 – 1990, he was capped 72 times for the Republic and scored 9 goals. He spent most of his domestic career as a midfielder with Arsenal from 1973 – 1980, making 235 appearances before leaving for Italy and playing for Juventus, Sampdoria, Inter Milan and Ascoli. He returned to Britain to end his playing career with West Ham before retiring in 1990.

Liam progressed into management positions with Celtic (1991 – 1993) and Brighton & Hove Albion (1993 – 1995) before rejoining Arsenal in 1996 as head of Youth Development, a role he still holds.

In 2008, he was appointed assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland soccer team under Giovanni Trapattoni.


Packie Bonner

Packie was born on 24 May 1960, in County Donegal, Ireland. The goalkeeper made his debut for the Republic in 1981, the first of 80 appearances. He played 642 times for Celtic from 1978 – 1995, winning 4 League Championships, 3 Scottish Cups and 1 League Cup.

In 2003, Packie took up the position of technical director with the Football Association of Ireland and also currently works as a soccer pundit on Irish television.

He is probably best remembered internationally for his penalty save against Romania in the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy.


Johnny Giles

Johnny was born 6 November 2021 in Dublin, Ireland. He joined Manchester United in 1957, playing 99 times before leaving for Leeds United in 1963. He played 383 games for the side and became one of the all time Leeds heroes during their golden days under Don Revie.

In 1975, he joined West Brom, followed by player manager posts with Irish side Shamrock Rovers and in USA.

He spent 19 years as a member of the international squad and has gained many awards and accolades, including a position in the 100 League Legends and the best Irish international player of the past 50 years.

Johnny is currently a football pundit on Irish radio and television.


Ray Houghton

Ray was born 2 January 2022 in Glasgow, Scotland. He began his playing career with West Ham in 1979, making only the one appearance before moving to Fulham in 1982. He spent the majority of his career with Liverpool, from 1987 – 1992, where he scored 28 goals in 153 appearances.

He also spent time with Oxford United, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Reading and Stevenage Borough, retiring in 2000.

He played his first game for Ireland against Wales in a friendly on 26 March 1986, went on to play 73 matches, and scored six times. He was in two World Cup squads, which travelled to the finals, in 1990 and 1994.

Ray now works as a football commentator on both radio and television.


Roy Keane

Roy was born 10 August 2021 in Cork City, Ireland. He began his somewhat controversial career with Irish side Cobh Ramblers in 1989 before moving to Nottingham Forest in 1990, Manchester United in 1993 and Celtic in 2005 where he stayed for one season before retiring from the game. He was one of the all time favourites at Old Trafford where he played on 452 occasions, scoring 51 times.

Roy was chosen to play for Ireland in 1991, going on to captain the side and made international headlines when he was sent home in disgrace from the 2002 World Cup Finals after a bust up with manager Mick McCarthy. He made a comeback to the team under new manager Brian Kerr in 2004, although not as captain. He announced his retirement from international soccer in 2006 after 66 games and 9 goals.

After hanging up his boots, Keane moved into management and is now currently the assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland’s national side.


Niall Quinn

Niall was born 6 October 2021 in Dublin, Ireland. The lofty striker began his professional career with Arsenal in 1983, staying with the club for 7 years in which he made 67 appearances, scoring 24 times. He moved to Manchester City where he stayed until 1996, playing 204 times and hit the back of the net 90 times. A move to Sunderland followed, with another impressive 91 goals in 203 appearances before retiring from playing in 2002.

Internationally he made his debut in 1986 and on retiring in 2002 he was the all time top scorer for his country with 21 goals, a record since broken by Robbie Keane.

He received an honorary MBE in 2002 after donating the entire proceeds of his testimonial between Sunderland and Republic of Ireland to charity. Quinn played for both teams during the game.

After retirement from the game, he had a short coaching spell with Sunderland before buying a stake in the club with a business consortium. He was chairman of the side until 2011.


Mick McCarthy

Mick was born 7 February 1959, in Barnsley, England. He began his career playing for Barnsley in 1977 for whom he made 272 appearances. He moved to Manchester City in 1983, followed by Celtic in 1987. He moved abroad to play for French side Lyon in 1989 before returning home to Millwall in 1990, retiring in 1992.

He played his first of 57 games for the Republic in 1984, going on to captain the side and becoming known as ‘Captain Fantastic’. He was in the Euro 88 squad and World Cup 1990 team, where he gained the dubious honour of committing the most fouls in the tournament.

After retiring both domestically and internationally in 1992, Mick went into management, firstly with Millwall from 1992 – 1996. He then managed the Republic for a spell until 2002, resigning after coming under constant criticism that had mounted since his bust up with Roy Keane.

He then managed Sunderland from 2003 – 2006, before taking other management roles with Wolves and Ipswich Town, which he currently holds.


Paul McGrath

Paul was born on 4 December 2021 in Ealing, London. Brought up in Ireland, he began his playing career with local side St Patrick’s Athletic in 1981 before moving a year later to Manchester United. The defender made 163 appearances for the team and scored 12 goals. He moved in 1989 to Aston Villa, scoring another nine times in 252 games and was christened ‘God’ by the fans.

In 1996, he spent a year with Derby County, followed by another year at Sheffield United before retiring from the game.

Internationally his career spanned from 1985 – 1997, with 83 appearances and 8 goals, captaining the side 4 times. Football pundit Eamon Dunphy named him as one of his all time Irish top three players in 1997.


Steve Staunton

‘Stan,’ as he is affectionately known by the fans, was born 19 January 2022 in Drogheda Ireland and began his career with Irish side Dundalk in 1985. He moved to Liverpool the following year, spending 5 seasons at Anfield with 65 appearances, including a short loan spell at Bradford in 1987.

In 1991, he joined Aston Villa and played for them 205 times before moving back to Liverpool for another 2 years in 1998. 2000 saw a loan spell at Crystal Palace, followed by another 73 games at Villa where he remained until 2003.

The next 2 years were spent at Coventry City and his final year as a player was with Walsall in 2006.

Internationally, Steve gained 102 caps between 1998 – 2003, including playing in two World Cups and captaining the squad for the 2002 tournament. He is the only player to have played in over 100 matches for Ireland.

After his playing career ended, Staunton took up a management position with the Republic of Ireland. It was a short-lived post and ended in 2007 after much controversy over the side failing to qualify for Euro 2008.


Frank Stapleton

Frank was born 10 July 2022 in Dublin, Ireland. The striker joined Arsenal in 1974, playing 225 times and scoring 75 goals. He netted another 60 for Manchester United, who he joined after leaving the Gunners in 1981.

He spent short periods with another nine teams – Ajax, Anderlecht, Derby, Le Havre, Blackburn Rovers, Aldershot, Huddersfield Town, Bradford City and finally Brighton & Hove Albion before retiring from the game in 1995, after spending 21 years as a professional player.

He won his first international cap with Ireland in 1976 and played 71 games for the squad until 1990. He was captain of the Euro 88 squad and is considered one of the all time greats of the national team.


Written by Julie-Anne

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Luciano Vietto: The “new Sergio Aguero” rising to prominence at Villareal

Villarreal CF has been in the public eye over recent weeks after selling one of their young South American prospects Gabriel Paulista to Arsenal. With nearly all of the scrutiny and focus falling upon the Brazilian centre back and his move to England, there has been less of a spotlight on his former team mate Luciano Vietto.

The young Argentine striker has enjoyed an impressive start to his time at Villarreal and his return of 10 goals in 20 league games has brought attention from some of Europe’s bigger clubs. There have already been rumours of links with Liverpool and Juventus even before the January transfer window opened, but with the sale of Paulista a move now is unlikely.

Vietto first rose to prominence at Racing Club in Argentina, where he moved after being released by his first club Estudiantes. Despite a modest goal return, 18 goals in 73 games, he showed enough ability to convince Villarreal to take him to Spain last summer. He has needed very little time to adapt to the demands of playing in a new league and by averaging a goal every other game in La Liga, the move has been viewed as a complete success.

He was called up to represent the Argentinean Under-20 side at the American Youth Championship in 2012 and responded with two goals in his four games. With the remarkable strength in depth that his nation has in the attacking department, a break through to the senior side will require some very impressive form. However, with concern surrounding the future of Argentina’s next generation of International players Vietto represents positivity.

Like many before him, there have already been comparisons with some of the greats his country have produced. His playing style has been likened to Sergio Aguero with the tenacity that he patrols the front line with. He is very quick and technically sound which can make him extremely difficult to defend against. Many of the best strikers rely on pure instinct with their goal scoring and Vietto’s finishing is clinical with both feet.

As with many young players, it is consistency that is the hardest skill to obtain. There have already been several highs and lows in Vietto’s brief career and the pursuit of consistent league performance must be the initial aim.

There is no doubt that he possesses many of the attributes required to become a top player and if he can maintain the standards he has set at his new club, a move to one of the big clubs in Europe would be no surprise.


Written by Andy Hunter

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Paul Pogba: The Octopus goes from strength to strength with Juventus, but it’s unclear how long it will last

With the January transfer window atypically slow-moving, speculation was inevitably rife when Paul Pogba announced that he still “loves Manchester United” and that he “would never speak ill” of the club that let him go to Juventus for just £800,000 in compensation back in 2012.

With United now tapping into their gigantic revenue streams in order to again become a major force in the transfer market, Pogba has emerged as a possible target to solve their seemingly endless search for a dynamic box-to-box midfielder who belongs with the elite of the game.

His Juve team-mates however believe they are wasting their time trying to undo such costly misjudgement and believe United are currently paying for their misjudgement, looking on in green-envy as the Italian side reap the services of a supremely gifted footballer.

“For whatever reasons they chose not to give him a chance - and that is a mistake they will have to live with now,” said his midfield partner Andrea Pirlo while goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has also spoken of his bemusement regarding how easily Pogba was allowed to leave. “We all asked ourselves, after seeing him train with us for the third or the fourth time, when he was still unknown, whether the people in Manchester couldn’t see very well” he said.

Since seeing right-back Rafael picked ahead of him for a game against Blackburn in December 2011-which Pogba says was his cue to leave Old Trafford- the Frenchman has won 2 league titles with Juventus as well as 2 Coppa Italia trophies. He won the under-20 World Cup with his country in 2013, a tournament in which he was voted best player, before emerging with the seniors to earn 22 caps and a headline role in this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, where he won FIFA’s award for best young player.

“Young” is the significant word with Pogba. It is startling to be reminded of his 21 years when he is galloping through opposition midfields, brushing off all-comers and dancing past them with sublime technique, all measured with a stunning maturity that belies his raw age.

The youngest among this year’s list of Ballon d’Or nominations, he was described as “imperious” by the Guardian in last year’s run down of the best young prospects in Europe and has won both Tuttosport’s Golden Boy and Guerin Sportivo’s Bravo awards in successive years. In the case of the latter, he became the first Juventus player to do so since Alessandro Del Piero in 1996.

Pogba certainly has the capacity to replicate Del Piero’s achievements in Turin but it is unclear if he will be with the Old Lady long enough to do so with manager Massimiliano Allegri admitting that an offer in the region of £75 million would be hard to reject and that “everybody has a price”.

With a handful of clubs around Europe, both able to afford that huge fee as well as subscribing to Allegri’s view that the midfielder could develop into the best in the world, it should not come as a surprise if Juventus, in a league that can no longer rival England and Spain in attracting the established stars of the game, were to see Pogba plucked away from their clutches.

The growing impact of Financial Fair Play means he will only be available to a select number of clubs but the Frenchman’s agent Mino Raiola says they will have to reach astronomical sums if they were to land the midfielder. “Paul is the most expensive player of them all. He would cost more than Messi and Ronaldo” he said. “In the world of football, few can afford to sign him. If Paul was in the market today, he would be the world’s most expensive footballer.”

Pogba signed a new five year deal to treble his £23,000 weekly wage as recently as October but Raiola has drummed up interest from the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG and United by refusing to rule out a summer move for his client. There is a five-year deal with Juventus and what June and July brings, we will see in June and July”, he said, possibly assured that Juve’s struggles in Europe, having failed to go past the quarter-finals of the Champions League despite cantering to successive Serie A titles over the past 2 years, will see his party hold the aces in negotiations.

Nicknamed “Paul the Octopus” in Italy for his long, strapping legs that resemble tentacles when he is running, there are inevitable comparisons to former French powerhouse Patrick Vieira, who used supreme fitness to combine strong defensive qualities with a creative talent in attack.

Pogba, who has 6 goals and has averaged 1.5 created chances and 2.2 shots per game as well as 2.4 tackles per game for Juventus in Serie A, a rate just short of Chelsea’s destroyer Nemanja Matic to provide some context, shows what an all-round force between both boxes the Frenchman is becoming as he grows into his fearsomely athletic 6ft 2 inch frame.

He was again superb in the weekend’s 2-0 win over Chievo, scoring a fine goal before having a role in the build-up to the second, also producing his own highlight-reel of skill as he toyed with Chievo’s hapless players who struggled to get the ball away from him. A total of 25 chances created this season, together with the 47/66 dribbles he has completed which stands in excess of 70%, certainly conveys a likeliness to Vieira, to whom comparisons started as early as his debut in a Manchester United shirt as a 16 year old back in 2009.

Except the stream-train that charges his way from deep in his own half to the edge of the opposition penalty area, carrying the ball with poise and elegance and is marked by a distinctive gold streak in the middle of his hair, is now in the black and white of Juventus and not the red of Manchester United.

It is unlikely he will ever end up back there, but a long-term future for the Old Lady doesn’t seem to be on the cards either. Allegri’s message to Juventus’ fans over the 21 year old’s fate is clear; ‘For now, let’s just enjoy having him.’


Written by Adam Gray

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Champions League: An Infographic on the 2014/15 Round of 16 contenders

Below is an infographic highlighting and detailing the round of 16 contenders in this season’s Champions League. It was created and designed by the folks at Guarantee Tickets.

Champions League Round of 16 Infographic

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Football/Sports Tips: How to Effectively Communicate With Your Players

Communication is key in any sport, especially team ones such as rugby and football, where the success of the club depends on effective management of large pools of talent. Keeping track of the well-being, health and fitness of each individual player is essential to manage your resources and ensure that the group on the pitch is able to get the best results. It can also help you to avoid injury, overrunning certain players in the build up to important events, and overseeing opportunities as they arise.


Face-to-Face Communication

Whether you are training or giving the team a talk during half time, it can be difficult to get your message across clearly both to the team as a whole, and individuals who need specific advice or criticism. Especially during intense situations such as games, mistakes made by players can be frustrating for the coach and manager, but a negative approach to communication can only have adverse effects. In any situation, try to build a criticism into a compliment. Tell them what they were doing well, then how they can improve their game, and you are much more likely to get a positive response.

Listening is as important for coaches and managers as it is for the players. Instead of giving them a 5-minute talk on where they have gone wrong and how they could improve, get them more actively involved in the conversation. Ask them where they think things went wrong, and talk through their situation to come to a solution. By being approachable and willing to hear what the athletes themselves have to say, you might also be surprised at how many of them are perfectly capable of self-diagnosis, and ask for advice of their own accord.


Interacting off the Pitch

However much you might try to cover every base in the time spent with your players, you inevitably can’t keep track of each player at all times. Yet understanding their feelings and physical situation is crucial to effective team management, and a passing comment during training from a player might easily get lost in the pipeline. Equipping your players and your organisation with sports performance management software allows you to interact off the pitch.

Your players can fill in surveys on their performance and fitness, whilst you can co-ordinate their training and development remotely, accessible on mobile devices to fit around the busy lives of every member of the organisation. By doing so, you can secure on-going communication with your team, and make sure that everything is professionally tracked and recorded.

In a modern world where mobile technology offers the opportunity to interact any time, anywhere, as a sporting organisation or individual, communication on the pitch is only one half of the picture today. Investment in sports performance management software and makes interaction with your players easier and more effective. Combined with an approachable and positive style of coaching and management, you can get the best out of your team to watch the success speak for itself.


Article by Kelly Gilmour-Grassam, freelance copywriter from Yorkshire. Kelly loves the great outdoors, interesting places and fine foods. You can follow her on Twitter at @KellyGGrassam. This article is written with support from The Sports Office.

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Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean stalwart will improve any side

It appears increasingly likely that Alexis Sanchez will be leaving Barcelona in this summer’s transfer window. Having spent three relatively successful years at the Catalan giants the impending arrival of Luis Suarez from Liverpool has seemingly left him surplus to requirements.

His arrival from Udinese in 2011 had been billed as somewhat of a coup at the time. His performances in Italy and for his national team, Chile, had alerted many of the major sides in Europe to his potential. An exceptionally quick player blessed with a sound technique was someone Barcelona thought would be immensely successful at the club.

However, the first couple of seasons were incredibly tough for him as Barcelona’s dominance begun to diminish. As well as settling into a side that were not performing as they had done in recent years he had to adjust to a new style of play. It knocked his confidence and unfortunately he spent most of the first season on the fringes of the team after struggling with a series of niggling injuries.

With the arrival of Tito Vilanova as head coach after the departure of Pep Guardiola it seemed that Sanchez would finally get a decent run of opportunities. However, it was only towards the end of that year that he really begun to make his mark and he scored some important goals towards the end of the season that saw Barcelona crowned as Champions.

It seemed that Sanchez was suffering from the same affliction that many other forward players have struggled with in recent seasons; the presence of Lionel Messi. A similar situation had befallen David Villa who despite doing well in his first season at the club never got much of an opportunity to play in his favoured role as striker. With almost their entire game based around the mercurial talent that is Messi the other forwards often felt marginalised and not as loved as the Argentine.

Rumours of Barcelona’s interest in Suarez really began to pick up speed just before the World Cup began a little under a month ago. Since then it has rumbled on but at the time of writing this it seems that the deal will be finalised in the coming days. With that in mind it almost guarantees Sanchez’s departure. At 25, he remains young enough to establish himself at another big club that will allow him to reach his potential.

He is an immensely committed player who always seems to perform at his optimum for the club when required. However, with much of the talk surrounding a move to Arsenal or Juventus it will be fascinating to see how the next stage of his career develops. He is clearly a character that needs to feel appreciated and despite playing second fiddle to Messi he remained reliable and dependable throughout his time at Barcelona.

If, as expected, he makes the move to Arsenal it will give the North London club some much needed quality in the final third of the pitch. His movement and link up play will certainly catch the eye and he will soon become one of the leading players in the league.


Written by Andy Hunter

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Domenico Berardi: European football pays notice to Italy’s unflappable teenage striker

In 2010, a 15 year old Domenico Berardi travelled to Modena to visit his older brother Francesco at university, only to start a professional career out of a regular five-a-side game between the siblings and a group of friends.

One of his brother’s friends was so startled at Domenico’s talent he made a phone call to the assistant of the academy at Sassuolo, a professional club near to the university. Luciano Carlino made the journey to take a look and Berardi’s life changed.

“I didn’t even wait a day” Carlino told Italian newspaper Tuttosport, “I immediately went to my Sporting Director to ask him to give the boy a trial”. 20 minutes was enough to convince Sassuolo that he was worth a contract and Berardi became a member of the club’s academy.

At the age of 15, the 560 mile distance between his former youth team Cosenza and Modena meant little to Berardi, the fearless desire to grasp the opportunity to become a professional was clear from the start.

He began his career with Sassuolo playing against Allievi (domestic student professionals) and Primavera teams (under-19 level) while the senior side managed to make the Serie B play-offs only to lose to Sampdoria. Club owner Giorgio Squinzi appointed Eusebio Di Francesco who immediately promoted the most talent from the academy in the hope it would complete the run to Serie A.

Berardi was handed his senior début on the opening day of the the 2012/13 season, scored his first goal five days later and made 37 appearances, totalling 11 goals, as Sassuolo reached the Italian top-flight for the first time in their history- the smallest Italian town to ever inhabit a Serie A team.

Berardi is a gangly, long-limbed versatile and naturally two-footed forward who was used predominantly by Di Francesco on the left-side of a front three, utilising to best effect his electric pace and ability to dribble past defenders.

“For his light touch and ability to cut in with pace, he reminds me of [Arjen] Robben”, said Carlino, his quality in one-on-one situations earning the comparison to the Dutch winger. “He is very attack-minded and the way he dribbles reminds me of a Brazilian player,” Sassuolo youth chief Paolo Mandelli once said.

After both Manchester clubs and Liverpool courted the teenager during his time in Serie B, Juventus were quick to make a deal with Sassuolo last summer, completing a co-ownership deal to own 50% of the player’s registration rights. Juventus paid £3.7 million and also threw in striker Luca Marrone, but Berardi was allowed to remain in Emilia for the 2013/2014 campaign.

He needed just 14 matches to show how much of a shrewd deal the Bianconeri had pulled off as he joined Carlos Tevez, Juventus’s current striking incumbent, as joint-second to Giuseppe Rossi in the Serie A scoring charts back in early January.

In the second match back from the winter break, Berardi reached 11 goals in astonishing circumstances; with AC Milan 2-0 up in Reggio Emilia within the opening quarter hour, Berardi struck 4 times in 47 minutes to become the first player ever to hit four goals in a match against the Rossoneri as Sassuolo recorded a famous victory.

“Berardi makes a mockery of Milan” was the headline of Il Giornale and it was true. He sprung the offside trap to round Christian Abbiati for his first, pounced on an error from Daniele Bonera to hook a second before he met a cross on a superb half-volley to make it 3-2. Moments after half-time Berardi deflected in another shot off Bonera to make it 4, a goal that immortalised the 19 year old in Italian football history.

It was a showcase of his ability to score any type of goal, whether the snapshot-belter of his third or the instinctive poaching of his second, Berardi can do the lot. He can also provide, 30 chances have been created and 3 assists have been made, though a pass completion rate of 69.9% from an attempted 621 passes, and a total of 71 shots that has yielded a host accuracy of just 49% could be improved on, though it is hard to remember Berardi is still a teenager with imperfections still inevitably in need of ironing out.

Goals have come at Roma, where he earned the minnows a late point, at Sampdoria where he struck another hat-trick, and in wins over Bologna and Atalanta. His last strike came as a consolation in the 3-1 defeat to Livorno in late January, a game in which he also picked up his 6th yellow card of the season.

His fiery temperament was called into question as he was sent off within 48 seconds of the Emilia derby with Parma, and he was also banned for the first 3 games of this season as for fighting with the goalkeeper of Livorno last year.

Indiscipline has also dogged his progress with the national team, refusing a call-up to Italy’s under-19s last summer and picking up an 8 month ban for failing to provide an explanation. After apologising to coach Gigi Di Biagio, Berardi made his return to the national fold with the under-21s in February but senior coach Cesare Prandelli has faced calls to go one step further and take him to Brazil with the Azzurri in the summer.

However, by a coach who prides discipline and professionalism, those hopes have been quashed as the Italian boss ruled it out as too soon. “He only recently restarted his path with the under-21 side and will not be taken into consideration until he has completed that journey”, he said.

One would predict that will not be before too long, even though the goals have dried up with Berardi failing to register in his last 8 games. He is likely to rejoin Juventus in the summer where there is a chance to strike up a devastating partnership with Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez.

There may also be conjuring memories of former Turin legend Alessandro Del Piero who needed 17 games to reach the same goal tally of 7 Berardi managed in just his first ten Serie A games. He is a phenomenal talent.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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Football Entertainment: Soccer Saturday Bingo

Soccer Saturday is a football institution in the UK and Ireland and has been ever since its inception in 1992. Broadcast on Sky Sports, the premise of the program is simple in that there is a host and four studio guests that review the Saturday afternoon football matches that play as they happen. There are also roving reporters at many of the other matches around the country and these are visited throughout the afternoon.

While the premise would make the program sound boring, the fact that it has been on air for 22 years is down to the on screen chemistry of the host, Jeff Stelling, and the studio guests makes the program watchable each and every week. The studio guests are currently former Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier, former Arsenal defender Paul Merson, ex Liverpool assistant manager Phil Thompson and Celtic and Arsenal striker Charlie Nicholas.

As a result of the on screen chemistry between the five in the Soccer Saturday studio as well as their familiarity with each other as well as the passion of these football men appearing while watching the matches we are often treated to a display of football analysis that is usually reserved for time spent in the pub with your mates, except on prime time TV!

The nature of the program, as well as the occasion faux pas from the studio guests, has led to many spin offs for people to join in at home. The most famous of this is the Soccer Saturday drinking game where shots of beer or Jagermeister are to be drunk at times of different things happening during the program.

However, for those of us that do not want to spend our Saturday afternoon’s getting heavily drunk we have come up with a bingo version of the game that allows you to play the same game without being unable to function for Saturday evening!

To play, just print off this bingo card from Butlers Bingo or write down the below situations and hand them out to all of the people playing the game. The winner is the first person to get all of their situations to appear on screen.

  • A goal is scored
  • A sending off
  •  Half time
  • Chris Kamara is talking
  • Paul Merson uses stupid rhyming slang (i.e.”he’s hit the beans on toast”!)
  • Swindon Town appear on the vidiprinter
  • Dundee appear on the vidiprinter
  • Phil Thompson says ‘Stevie Gerrard’
  • Jeff makes an ‘A Trialist’ joke
  • Your team scores two goals
  • Jeff calls Kenny Deucher ‘The Good Doctor’
  • Hartlepool score a goal
  • A pundit shouts off camera
  • LeTiss is mentioned in connection with a takeaway
  • Chris Kamara says “it’s unbelievable Jeff”
  • Jeff mentions “dancing in the streets of TNS
  • Jeff says “its Doom and Gloom at…”
  • The team ‘Keith’ is referred to as just being one guy
  • Brighton & Hove, or Daggers & Redbridge are jokingly referred to as two different teams playing the same oppo
  • When Arbroath striker Kevin Webster scores and Stelling says “ohh, Sally will be pleased”
  • Something bad happens to Craig Bellamy (injury, og, booked, arrested for assault etc.)
  • Northampton Town appear on the vidiprinter.
  • Jeff sings “I feel good” when James Brown scores for Hartlepool

These are just a taste of the situations that occur during Soccer Saturday, and feel free to add more of your own making to spice up for your Soccer Saturday bingo session! Once you’ve played this, jump online to play free games at any bingo site. You can win big and use it to spice up your Soccer Saturday fun!

Would you prefer to just play football instead of sitting at home? So basically you want to be a professional footballer? Click here!


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