The current generation of Italian midfielders coming through show no signs of stopping and one of the new generation who has established himself over the last few seasons in the Serie A is Torino’s Daniele Baselli. Born in Brescia in 1992, the now 25-year-old joined Atalanta’s famed youth system aged 8 in 2000. After impressing in the academy and the Primavera team, Baselli was sold to Cittadella in July 2011 in a co-ownership deal. Baselli would spend two seasons at Cittadella in Serie B, playing 50 times in the league for the club. At the second season’s completion, Atalanta offered more than Cittadella to bring Baselli back to Bergamo ahead of the 2013/14 Serie A season.
Baselli finally made his debut for Atalanta that August and would enjoy two impressive seasons in the first team racking up exactly 50 league appearances. His performances prompted the interest of the ambitious Torino who had also signed young Italian striker Andrea Belotti. Along with Atalanta teammate Davide Zappacosta, Baselli made the move to Turin.
In his first season, Baselli hit the ground running and impressed in central midfield in coach Gian Piero Ventura’s 3-5-2, playing 35 games in Serie A and scoring four goals. This term, under Sinisa Mihajlovic, Baselli has continued his upwards trajectory by appearing in 34 league games to date, with three league games remaining. He’s scored another five goals and assisted four. His performances has prompted links to AC Milan and AS Roma as well as joining Ventura in the senior national team. But who is he?
In Mihajlovic’ high-energy, high-tempo football, Baselli started the season at the left central midfield position in the 4-3-3 shape. Lately, Toro has shifted into a 4-2-3-1 where Baselli plays in the double pivot in midfield. This role suits him as he’s an all-action box-to-box midfielder with universal attributes. Defensively, Baselli uses his physical attributes effectively. He’s quick into press, a tough tackler, positions himself intelligently and reads the game well which allows him to make interceptions.
In the video above you see Baselli make a selection of tackles and recovery runs to dispossess the opposition. His speed is impressive as he can quickly sprint into a dangerous situation to make a tackle or simply nick the ball from his opponent.
Below you see two examples of Baselli using his intelligence to intercept passes and then play a controlled pass to start Torino’s attack.
As I described earlier, Baselli is a highly intelligent footballer. He reads the game very well and this allows him to quickly identify dangerous situations on the pitch. This intelligence and quick-thinking he has makes him a good counterpresser as the video below illustrates. First he tries a pass that is cleared, but Baselli has quickly reacted and wins the ball back.
When in possession, Baselli is quite vertical. Torino’s entire attacking approach is very vertical and direct as they go forward as soon as they gain possession of the ball. I’ve made the video below to help illustrate the nature of Baselli’s passing. The Italian is always looking forward and trying to get in behind the opposition or in between their lines.
Baselli also has a good passing range which sees him being able to effectively switch the point of attack with sweeping crossfield passes to either wing. The creative and vertical nature of Baselli’s passing is highlighted by his four assists in the league this season.
The video above highlights Baselli’s excellent decision making as he first feeds a pass that splits Juventus midfield into Belotti before later receiving the ball again. He quickly turns his body, scans his options before finding Zappacosta in a good position down the flank with a great pass.
Excellent technique and dribbling ability
Technically, Baselli is very, very good. He treats the ball like a kid treats his recently-found Easter egg. His first touch and close control is excellent and added to his passing ability and intelligence it helps make him very resistant to pressing. He uses his technique and calmness on the ball to turn or dribble his way out of pressure before delivering a pass forward, as in the two examples below.
In the second one we can see how Sampdoria press Baselli from two sides, He simply dribbles out of the pressure before delivering a good vertical pass to set Torino off on the attack.
With five goals to his name this season as well as five last year, Baselli has what it takes to threaten the opposition higher up the pitch too. He can still improve in this area but has shown the ability to score both from distance and from solo goals.
Above we see a superb strike against Fiorentina. Note how he makes his own space by quickly bursting past his opponent.
With his technical ability and speed in both short and longer distances, Baselli can also beat defenders before finishing as he did against Milan this season. This goal is superb.
Daniele Baselli might not be the youngest midfielder currently shining in Serie A, but his form over specifically the latter stages of the season has been phenomenal and he is a complete midfielder capable of filling defensive, attacking or central positions in midfield. He can win the ball back by physicality and intelligence, he can dribble, he can create and he can score. Torino will be desperate to hold onto Baselli in the summer, but if the big clubs want midfield reinforcements then this is one of the best midfielders they could sign.