Italy CT Roberto Mancini says he ‘can’t complain’ about the job Federico Bernardeschi has done for the national team, but his Euro 2020 call-up has created debate and controversy, writes Martin Monk.
The Juventus winger, who captained the Azzurri in the latest friendly against San Marino, admitted after the game he loves playing for his country, where he plays in a position that suits him better.
“It’s absolutely true that I feel more freedom here because I’m allowed to take risks here,” the former Fiorentina star said, attracting criticism from the partner of Juventus’ former coach Andrea Pirlo.
Is it possible to blame the Carrara-born winger? Bernardeschi has played in every possible position during his time at Juventus. Not just under Pirlo but also during Maurizio Sarri and Max Allegri’s reigns. From winger to centre midfielder and even left-back, Bernardeschi was spotted everywhere on the pitch in a black and white shirt.
The former Fiorentina star moved to Juventus in July 2017 and was expected to take a massive leap with the Serie A giants. The Bianconeri were pushing to sign the Italy international for several weeks, but the winger was highly valued in Florence, and the progress was slow.
Bernardeschi was eventually signed for €40m. He has shown his versatility at the Allianz Stadium and has continued to be a hard-working player. He can play in a range of positions and is known for his vision and dribbling abilities. He has an impressive left foot, too and will always provide a threat with his attacking runs into the box.
But lately, the winger has struggled for playing time and battled to convince Sarri during the former Napoli coach’s year with the Bianconeri. In 2020-21, with Andrea Pirlo in charge, he only started eight times in the League and continued to be linked with a move away from the Old Lady. But his place in the Italy squad has not been threatened, as Mancini relies on the versatile attacker.
Former Juventus coach Antonio Conte gave Bernardeschi his Italy debut on March 24, 2016, against Spain in a 1-1 draw, when the lad from Carrara was brought on for the final 29 minutes.
Bernardeschi, a regular starter under Luigi Di Biagio with Italy U21, has been capped 30 times by the Azzurri and contributed five goals, two of them in the Euro 2020 qualifiers, against Greece and Liechtenstein.
He played eight of the ten games in the qualifiers, and Mancini underlined his value for the Azzurri, saying the adaptable forward played an important part when the Azzurri went through Group J with ten wins in just as many games. His call-up has created controversy as he didn’t even score one goal with Juventus in 2020-21. However, the Azzurri squad seem to be his comfort zone, thanks to a coach that relies on him and deploys the 27-year-old in his favourite position. Will it be enough to shine?