Federico Bernardeschi’s rise to become one of Italian football’s best attackers has seen Fiorentina’s disappointing season at least feature one huge positive for the Viola faithful. An academy graduate, Bernardeschi represents the Fiorentina fans on the pitch and his quality could see him become a hero of the same stature Roberto Baggio once held at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
But who is Bernardeschi? And how did he become the player we’re witnessing now?
Bernardeschi was born in the world famous marble town of Carrara, also hometown of the legendary Gianluigi Buffon. After coming through the ranks at Fiorentina, which he joined as a nine-year-old in 2003, he signed for Crotone on loan for the 2013/14 season. Under the guidance of Massimo Drago, and fellow exciting loanees Lorenzo Crisetig and Danilo Cataldi, Bernardeschi thrived on the right wing in Crotone’s 4-3-3. Bernardeschi would consistently cut in on his devastating left foot and contributed 12 goals in 39 appearances for Crotone.
On his return to Fiorentina after such a strong season on loan, the Fiorentina fans hoped for a breakthrough season. Unfortunately, injuries and Mohamed Salah restricted him to 10 appearances which saw three goals. In the close season Paulo Sousa came in as manager and replaced Vincenzo Montella. Sousa immediately changed the system to a 3-4-2-1 and Bernardeschi was made a regular in the starting eleven. Bernardeschi really had to adapt since he wasn’t deployed in his normal position as a winger or a number 10. Instead, Bernardeschi was given a role as a wing back, often on the right side of Fiorentina’s system. Sousa’s side attack in the aforementioned 3-4-2-1 but defend in a 4-4-1-1. Based on the side Bernardeschi played on he would either defend as a conventional wide midfielder, or as a full back. I watched him live at home against Roma where he defended as a left back against Salah and did well, but that role surely wasn’t the optimal way to get the best out of the young attacker. On occasions, Bernardeschi would be deployed as one of the attacking midfielders behind the lone striker, and this is where he’s really thrived this season.
Operating just behind the striker and usually attacking from either half-space, Bernardeschi has been given the platform to fully utilise his exceptional creative qualities and has established himself as one of Serie A’s best attacking players. So far he’s struck 13 goals in 32 appearances with 10 arriving in 23 Serie A matches. Nicknamed Brunelleschi after the famous Renaissance architect, Bernardeschi is naturally creative and is extremely dangerous from central positions, but also have the speed and trickery to hurt opponents from wide areas.
In the video you can see some situations highlighting the young Italian’s quality when dribbling both in tight and small spaces as well as over longer distances. His acceleration is fantastic and his control when running with the ball is exceptional. This close control allows him to keep his head up in order to consistently realise possible passes or shooting opportunities.
Bernardeschi’s passing is really good, and he’s clever enough to anticipate when to make passes to create chances for his teammates. Crucially, Bernardeschi can weigh his passes perfectly, making him a superb creator. His through balls are perfect, his crosses consistently qualitative and his left foot can unlock even the most tightly packed defence.
With a left foot only Paulo Dybala can challenge in Italian football, Bernardeschi can score all types of goals; curlers, powerful strikes from distances, free-kicks or placed shots closer to goal. This variation makes him an immense attacking threat, and if given space outside the box he’s devastating.
Federico Bernardeschi has quickly made a name for him in Italian football and is already a superstar in Serie A. In Florence in particular he’s already grown into an icon for the club and the hope from the city is the youngster remains for a long time, something Baggio decided against doing. If the club doesn’t give him the platform to challenge for the biggest prizes, though, he’ll surely be off to a bigger club as his rise to the top show no signs of slowing down. Bernardeschi has established himself in Serie A and in the national team, so the next step is to become a consistent performer at this level. With his quality, you’d expect him to reach the absolute elite level of European football.
Just like Filippo Brunelleschi was the man behind the construction of Florence beautiful cathedral Il Duomo, Federico Bernardeschi can become the architect behind success on the pitch for ACF Fiorentina.