Nicolo Barella (CM) Cagliari

ubermick

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#1
Rumour seems quite widespread at the moment, reported in several papers as well as ESPN and FootyWhispers picking it up.

The 21-year-old has been linked with a transfer to the Premier League and also Serie A sides Juventus and Napoli, but would reportedly prefer a move to England. The Cagliari midfielder had offers in the summer but his club turned them down, while he told Gazzetta dello Sport that his "dream is to get a nice house with a garden and a pool. And to meet LeBron James." James is a Liverpool shareholder, which has led to suggestions that a move to the Merseyside club may see both of Barella's dreams become a reality.
 

Red over the water

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#2
Apparently Pirlo has been raving about him.

With reinforcements this past summer, our midfield now looks very good indeed - and deep. Consider the win against PSG and remember neither Fabinho or Keita started. Then going beyond that there are other players not really getting a look in, like Lallana (who admittedly hasn’t been able to get consistently fit for a while), plus another recent Klopp signing, AOC, looking really good but then sustaining a long term injury. After that we have some highly rated youngsters who might make the grade or get into the first team squad - Jones, Woodburn, Ejaria, Gruijic.

All this is to say it’s a very competitive part of the pitch. If Barella is very good, he might come into the reckoning as we shuffle a couple or more out the door.

One thing did catch my eye in the reports I read, and that was how many times he won the ball back for his team. I did think, hmmm, potentially a Klopp player...
 

Semmy

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#4
Be thinking Klopp would want a two-footed midfielder. This guy reminds me of Konoplyanka in how one-footed he is.
 

ubermick

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#5
REDS PURSUIT OF SERIE A STARLET MAKES TACTICAL SENSE

The Reds are reportedly heading the queue for the Italy international's signature
JAMES PIERCY | 15TH OCTOBER 2018

It was Pep Guardiola who forecast that all the best players of the future would be positionally flexible. There used to be a certain reassurance about centre-back who could only head and tackle, strikers who just scored and goalkeepers who only stayed within their 18-yard box.

Such parameters are slowly disappearing, however, and describing exactly what type of footballer a player is, is becoming harder to define.

Nicolo Barella of Cagliari is one such individual who seems to conform to Guardiola’s theory. A midfielder who can do a bit of everything without possessing one defining characteristic, he has emerged as one of Italian football’s most intriguing young talents.

Tactically flexible is something Jurgen Klopp has opened himself up to this season as he looks to take Liverpool to the next level, but not necessarily with his trademark high-pressing 4-3-3. It’s yet to fully bear out, and we’re only two months into the season, but his signings have implied he wants players, particularly midfielders, who are multi-skilled.

With reports linking the Reds to Barella, our friends at Football Whispers profile the 21-year-old, analysing his strengths, weaknesses and what he could bring to Liverpool and the Premier League.

Background

There is no magic formula for cultivating a special talent as a child into a fully-fledged professional player of world-class potential, but in the case of Barella he appears to have followed a textbook path to the top.

Cagliari born and bred, the Sardinian joined the club’s academy in his mid-teens and was capped by Italy as early as at Under-15 level, working his way up all seven grades to the U21s. He was a driving force of the young Azzurri sides who finished second at the U19 European Championships in 2016 and third at the U20 World Cup in 2017.

At club level he made his Serie A debut at the age of 18 towards the end of the 2014/15 season as Cagliari were relegated to Serie B. A loan spell at Como the following campaign grew his first-team experience and he has been a regular for the Rossoblu in the top-flight since returning.

It was former Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura who first called him into the Azzurri squad last autumn with Roberto Mancini handing his debut earlier this month, starting in a midfield three alongside Jorginho and Marco Verratti against Ukraine.

STRENGTHS

How long have you got? Barella, at the risk of making him sound like a ready-made superstar, seems to do everything well. From the basics of the game – passing, shooting, dribbling and tackling – to more nuanced attributes like positional awareness and dictating tempo, the youngster really has got the lot.

It’s reflected in his numbers for the season as he ranks 20th (2.75) and 12th (2.12) among Serie A midfielders for tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes but also is 21st (1.62) and 19th (1.0) for scoring attempts and take-ons.

He has played as a holding midfielder, utilising his understanding of space and ability in breaking up opposition possession but also further forward in a more creative position, where he ranks 33rd for open play key passes per 90 (1.0), a figure that would be undoubtedly higher if he operated further up the field more often.

His tenacity is matched by fine balance in possession and awareness of when to pass or to travel with the ball. His distribution is stellar and he has excellent range, whether it be raking cross-field passes or well-weighted through-balls.

The fact that he’s Cagliari vice-captain, has taken penalties and is their main set-piece taker (and a very good one at that) shows a huge degree of responsibility and leadership on his part. Mentally, he’s never looked phased from playing at Serie A level to his performances with Italy.



WEAKNESSES

However, his flexibility can be construed as a slight negative. It’s hypothetical but his adaptability means he could find himself selected as a holding player or out wide to fulfil a task, rather than getting the best out of him.

Not that he’s a jack-of-all-trades/master of none but if there is a gap in the side, the temptation would be to fill it with him rather than designating a specific position. There is also the question over where he operates best.

His slight lack of consistency in the final third means he’s perhaps more suited to a deeper role in midfield even though he explained that he prefers playing on the right-hand side.

At 5ft 9ins, he lacks aerial prowess, but that should not stop him from becoming a world-class defensive midfielder. Claude Makelele was only 5ft 6ins and he fared well.

There is also the fact he’s never played or lived outside of his hometown. At 21, a move outside of his comfort zone would be a robust examination of his character – and one to which an adverse reaction is very possible.

DOES A TRANSFER MAKE SENSE?

On sheer ability alone, without question. Barella is already remarkably refined for such a young player and, if his progress continues, he’ll be a mainstay for Italy over the next decade.

For Klopp, to have a midfielder who can pass with the vision of a playmaker but win back possession with the discipline and timing of the very best defensive midfielders is an extremely enticing prospect, especially for a coach with such belief in the high press.

What slightly clouds all this is his price at his young age, factored in with concern over whether he could adapt to life in England and the Premier League.

Cagliari, understandably, value him in excess of £40million but at 21, if he is to become what he should, that represents a solid investment. The risk is, though, that he’s yet to fully mature and moving him from Italy, at a relatively small club, to such a contrasting environment and all the pressures that entails could hamper his progress
 

Limiescouse

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#6
Marcotti describe Italy's performance against Poland last week as their best since 2012, and put a lot of that down to them finally having a midfield that could so constructively use the ball. It would be an interesting move.
 

Caradoc

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#7
Based on the (admittedly) limited amount of footage that I have seen of this lad in action, I would say that if he could transfer his form and ability to LFC he would immediately (or at least very quickly) put considerable pressure on Henderson for his place.
 

Zinedine Biscan

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#8
I've never heard of this lad before now quite honestly, but if what people are saying is true about his ability then it could be a very intriguing one.
 

Herb

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#11
By all accounts it sounds like he’ll go to one of the Milan clubs. Don’t know if many people listen to non LFC football podcasts on here, but James Horncastle is on a podcast called On The Continent which is released on a Wednesday and Saturday. Knows his stuff when it comes to Italian football, on today’s episode he basically said Leonardo and Gattuso have been courting him for Milan for a little while, whilst he shares an agent with the Inter midfielder Radja Nainggolan.
 

Perth Red

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#12
Sounds like the same stuff as was said about Keith but with less experience. Worth a shot or not? Who knows?
 

Red over the water

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#13
Good player but not sure about him coming here at this stage. In Keita and Fabinho we just bought two midfielders who are ahead of Barella in terms of development, and they are both on a slow burn in terms of integration into the side. Wijnaldum has shown good form as a number six, Milner keeps going, and Henderson is a good player, though if he is in a midfield without enough variety, it all gets a bit stale. That’s five midfielders right there, to say nothing of other senior midfielders who are injured, or other younger midfielders also trying to make the grade here.

If we signed Barella there is a danger he could get lost in the pack. Young lad, moving to a bigger team, new country, etc. He would need a strong character to come through here. And that’s the part we don’t really know as he hasn’t been tested yet at a bigger club, never mind cross culturally. For the likely price they would want he would need to be virtually a sure thing for us, and I’m not sure we could say that at this stage for him.

I think the likely next move for him is a bigger team in Italy. There’s an outside chance we could do a deal and leave him where he is for a year. That way he would continue to grow as a player and gain first team experience. On our side our own midfield would evolve, presumably with Keita and Fabinho coming to the fore, and one or two others being phased out, either due to their age, or due to the side improving and them not being quite good enough. Lots of ifs and buts there though, and I can’t see Barella coming here. Not any time soon, anyhow.
 

Nikola

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#14
I'm sure that Klopp will have Milner's age and AOC's and Lallana's susceptibility to injuries in mind when he looks at his midfield options but I'm not sure that Barella is a genuine target unless he's way more developed than I can imagine, i.e. a truly special talent capable of covering a lot of ground, being a great tactical weapon, possessing outstanding technical ability and also being an influence on the scoreline.

From what I've read, he might tick the first three boxes but not the last one. Does Liverpool really need another midfield who is more defensive than offensive minded? I'm all for finding gems but I'd also like to see certain deficiencies of the team taken care of first (like lack of forward-thinking midfielders who are capable of carrying the ball forward, breaking the lines, creating chances for their teammates, generally unsettling the opposition).

Also, there's also a strong chance that Barella wouldn't be interested in Liverpool. After all, he's a young player courted by his country's biggest teams, he's the future of a hugely important national team that is in need of serious overhaul and he's playing in a position where I think they are lacking genuine quality. I doubt he'd leave just like that for a team where all of his countrymen have so far failed to have any impact. Also, at the quoted price of 50 million euros, I think Liverpool would look elsewhere even if they were interested.
 

Koon

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#17
Watched him in one match and he didn't impress. Average player, decent defending, mediocre attacking. Looks like more of the same we have at Anfield.

Pass.
 

YNWA-HM

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#20
Italians never do well in the PL. Can't even think of one. Aquilani, Balotelli and Dossena all underperformed for us. Its a different game in the Serie A.
 

rupzzz

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#21
Italians never do well in the PL. Can't even think of one. Aquilani, Balotelli and Dossena all underperformed for us. Its a different game in the Serie A.
Zola, Di Matteo and Di Canio were decent.

We've not seen superstar Italians here because they stay in Italy. Like the best Spaniards stay in Spain and the best English players stay in England.
 

lfc.eddie

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#22
Zola, Di Matteo and Di Canio were decent.

We've not seen superstar Italians here because they stay in Italy. Like the best Spaniards stay in Spain and the best English players stay in England.
Torres, Alonso, Arbeloa, Silva, De Gea, Morata, Reina, Garcia might disagree with you. In fact the very best of Spain only plays for Real, Barcelona and English top 4 clubs.

@YNWA-HM is right, Italian players don't fair too well in England. Only a handful could hack it here.
 

rupzzz

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#24
Torres, Alonso, Arbeloa, Silva, De Gea, Morata, Reina, Garcia might disagree with you. In fact the very best of Spain only plays for Real, Barcelona and English top 4 clubs.

@YNWA-HM is right, Italian players don't fair too well in England. Only a handful could hack it here.
They can argue all they like...it's all based on opinion. I'd argue only Alonso, Torres and De Gea are greats for Spain - and even then, Alonso spent his peak in Spain (as did Arbeloa), whilst Torres would never have gone to Real, so it was Barca or away. We Gea has been toying with Spain for a long time now and is still not at his peak.

Silva obviously could have walked into Barca under pep but then Barca were incredible when pep was there. A great player and the perfect manager for him.
 

lfc.eddie

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#25
They can argue all they like...it's all based on opinion. I'd argue only Alonso, Torres and De Gea are greats for Spain - and even then, Alonso spent his peak in Spain (as did Arbeloa), whilst Torres would never have gone to Real, so it was Barca or away. We Gea has been toying with Spain for a long time now and is still not at his peak.

Silva obviously could have walked into Barca under pep but then Barca were incredible when pep was there. A great player and the perfect manager for him.
You are now presenting a whole new sets of arguement to negate the point @YNWA-HM made which was valid. DiCanio to your opinion is great while the rest I post up isn’t. You still won’t concede that more good Spanish players moved abroad while not many Italian made it because the way they play does not suit our league.
 



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#26
Watched him in the friendly vs the USA, attacking an American who had never played LB. Bang average if you ask me. The guy who really impressed was Chiesa. Ran that LB all over the lot, good pace, very dangerous in the attack. I could see him on a wing at Anfield.
 

zman89

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#27
You are now presenting a whole new sets of arguement to negate the point @YNWA-HM made which was valid. DiCanio to your opinion is great while the rest I post up isn’t. You still won’t concede that more good Spanish players moved abroad while not many Italian made it because the way they play does not suit our league.
To be honest Di Canio was a very average player compared to the quality of players Italy was producing at the time. I doubt if he even ever represented Italy and he only played for average teams in England. He's only remembered cause he scored some fantastic goals and was a bit of a character. The italian league gives you more time to think on the ball so I can see how they would find it difficult to adapt. Then again I don't think Aquilani was a terrible player. He had some fine games for us and his downfall was always his injury record. I watched the Italy match against Poland and I was very impressed by him tbh. There's always a risk he fails miserably of course, but that can happen to any player.
 

jboy14

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#28
To be honest Di Canio was a very average player compared to the quality of players Italy was producing at the time. I doubt if he even ever represented Italy and he only played for average teams in England. He's only remembered cause he scored some fantastic goals and was a bit of a character. The italian league gives you more time to think on the ball so I can see how they would find it difficult to adapt. Then again I don't think Aquilani was a terrible player. He had some fine games for us and his downfall was always his injury record. I watched the Italy match against Poland and I was very impressed by him tbh. There's always a risk he fails miserably of course, but that can happen to any player.


Di Canio was far from average.