Football Features

Squawka Scout: who is Nicolo Barella?

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 12:58, 26 March 2019

Italy are building a brighter future under Roberto Mancini and playing an integral role in this revival is the very talented Nicolo Barella.

The 22-year-old multifunctional midfielder, who plies his trade for boyhood club Cagliari, emerged in an Azzurri shirt following the nation’s failure to reach last summer’s World Cup finals.

Since debuting in a 1-1 friendly against Ukraine he’s been ever-present under Mancini, playing every single minute, bar the final 13 minutes in Italy’s 1-0 triumph over USA, in a run that is yet to see Barella suffer an international defeat.

Highly thought of, Italy’s recent 2-0 win at Finland’s expense saw him break his duck and there’s no shortage of interested parties. It will, though, be hard-pressed to see Barella remain where he currently is in year’s time.

What position does Nicolo Barella play?

As touched upon, Barella is comfortable across various roles in midfield. Nominally a central midfielder, where he’s so far exclusively played for Italy, the native of Cagliari is also capable of playing behind the centre-forward or just in front of his team’s backline.

This flexibility, naturally, makes him a manager’s dream. However, no one is moving him around, meaning forging an international triumvirate with fellow CM Marco Verratti and deep-lying playmaker Jorginho became a possibility against Ukraine, where he earned his first cap.

Since that game, Italy’s new midfield trio have started three of their next four matches.

Which clubs want to sign Nicolo Barella?

Unsurprisingly, given his talent and potential, Barella is a wanted man. In the past Milan’s big two were keeping tabs but more recently interest have come from the Premier League where England’s top clubs are locked in battle either for the title or Champions League places.

Chelsea, who have a transfer ban to look forward to, and Manchester United were associated in January but neither made a concrete move. Arsenal – with some reports suggesting Barella could become Aaron Ramsey’s successor – Liverpool and even Tottenham Hotspur have also been touted as potential destinations.

In fact, it was reported Barella rejected a potential switch to Stamford Bridge with national team manager Mancini telling him to be careful when deciding where his next step is.

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Which Premier League player is Nicolo Barella like?

If we break it down further, Barella is a throwback to an old-fashioned robust box-to-box midfielder, it’s why he’s so comfortable in either of the three positions.

He is a threat in the opposition half and a presence in his own. Hence why renowned Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport compared him to Steven Gerrard.

Barella, himself, dreams of playing in the league that made Gerrard a household name.

“If I had to choose between Serie A and the Premier League, I’d go for England, because I like the way they approach the game,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport (via Football Italia) last September.

“Plus everyone there is just as irritable and prone to fouls as me!”

How much is Nicolo Barella worth?

He’s not going to be cheap. So far, most reports have valued Barella around or north of £40m. If that is what it eventually costs then it would make him the second most expensive Italian footballer after Jorginho, who Chelsea paid £50m to prize away from Napoli in the summer of 2018.

When does Nicolo Barella’s contract end?

Barella’s current deal with Cagliari expires in June 2022, having signed his latest contract extension in January 2018.

Since coming through Cagliari’s youth set-up he’s gone on to make no fewer than 103 first team appearances, registering seven goals and creating a further four for his teammates.

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