Midfielder | Cagliari | Italy
When you know you know, so they say. We might not physically have access to a crystal ball, but pretty much every Mystic Meg in the land will tell you one thing with utmost certainty about Barella’s future: he’s going to the very, very top.
Marco Verratti who? Italian football fans are watching with eagled-eyed intrigue, envisaging the future of a midfield lynchpin of the ethereal status commanded by Andrea Pirlo, praying to the old gods and the new that Barella will fulfill his boundless potential.
The British media are renowned for overhyping the next generation of talent, but that overzealous approach to wonderkid analysis is not an exclusively British phenomenon - as Barella’s development has exhibited.
Mr ice cool himself, Andrea Pirlo, has labelled Barella as one of the best in Italy, Fabio Capello compared him to the great Marco Tardelli and the general spectator has succumbed to the temptation of joining the eulogisers by touting him as Italy’s answer to Steven Gerrard. No pressure, Nicolo.
But while comparisons are made throughout the European media, Barella continues to play with a unique style, orchestrating from deep and stubbornly refusing to let the sensationalist comparisons corrupt his humble-natured mentality.
2018 has been…
A year for takeoff. Barella’s mightily impressive performances at Cagliari earned him a call-up to Roberto Mancini’s Italy squad for the very first time. His first appearance arrived against Ukraine in a friendly back in October, and he has earned a further three caps since, particularly impressing in a 1-0 victory over Poland in the UEFA Nations League.
Barella played an instrumental role in helping Cagliari to beat the drop, scoring four goals between January 1st and the end of the 2017/18 Serie A campaign. But it is his distinct ability to take control of proceedings and drive Cagliari into attacking territory, rather than his goal scoring ability, which makes him such a darling of the Italian media.
Naturally, interest in signing Barella among the European elite will remain perennial for as long as his exponential rate of improvement continues. The rumour mill has thrown up a steady stream of stories, linking Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Juventus and Inter Milan, to name just a few clubs, with a sensational 2018 bid, yet he remains at Cagliari.
The Italian minnows are clawing on to the jewel in their crown, for now at least, but the vultures have taken flight in tandem with Barella’s rise to prominence, and are beginning to plot for the right moment to swoop.
There are credible arguments to suggest Tottenham would be seriously interested in completing a deal. He is an illustrator who would draw all kinds of magic pictures for supporters to coo over at the new stadium - providing the new stadium isn’t an urban myth - and Dembele’s probable departure could open up a vacancy for Daniel Levy to fill. Barella has previously revealed his affection for the English game, citing the physicality of the division as one of its most enticing characteristics, which is certainly bound to add fuel to the fire as his career develops.
Barella’s reputation in Italy is snowballing to the extent in which it’s no longer unreasonable to suggest he is better equipped than both Verratti and Jorginho to marshall Mancini’s midfield. The weight of that compliment is one which will weigh heavy on Barella’s shoulders, but he has the star quality to rise to the expectation.