It's been a long, long, long time coming, but after more than two years of waiting it looks as if Inter's mission to bring Domenico Berardi to San Siro is finally going to be accomplished this summer.
Young, talented, Italian and most of all a die-hard Interista, Berardi possesses all the qualities that owners Suning like in a player and has been closely followed by Piero Ausilio ever since he joined Sassuolo as an obstreperous 18 year-old in 2012, with our sporting director admitting last year that he was 'in love' with the player from a footballing point of view. It is no secret at all, therefore, that the club like him and want to make him one of the stars of our team in the coming years, and with each day that passes it becomes more and more likely that their wish will be granted during this summer's transfer window. Friday's Corriere dello Sport wrote that 'a turning point' had been reached in our pursuit for the player after Sassuolo publicly opened up to the possibility of selling Berardi to Inter for the first time, while Fabrizio Biasin believes the club are 'pressing' to secure a transfer as quickly as possible.
It's not the first time we've moved for Mimmo. Inter made a first concrete attempt to sign him last summer, but unfortunately things didn't go to plan. I'm sure you all remember roughly what happened, because it went on for ages and got a bit nasty between us and Juventus (not for the first time, and anyway they deserve it), but let's recap the story quickly in case you don't. Essentially, Sassuolo and Juve had a long-standing agreement for the player to move to Turin after they co-owned the player for a couple of years, but just when it seemed like the deal would be completed Berardi threw a spanner in the works by announcing that he didn't want to go.
Whether that was because he was worried he wouldn't get any game-time, or because he's a true Inter fan and could not stand the mere thought of putting on those disgusting colours we'll never know, but the fact is he decided that he didn't want to go to Juve, for whatever reason. At that moment Inter tried to swoop in and steal him from the Bianconeri, having reached an agreement with the player in private, but Sassuolo were having none of it and refused to even sit down behind a negotiating table. They'd decided to keep him and that was that, promising to Berardi that they would let him move to a big club next summer should they come in for him.
Fast forward nine months however and things have changed. One only needs to listen to how President Giorgio Squinzi and chief executive Giovanni Carnevali have been speaking in the last month to understand that much. For whatever reason, it seems Sassuolo and Juventus no longer have the gentleman's agreement that they had in place before - perhaps Juve aren't keen on him anymore, or perhaps they've realised Berardi simply does not want to join them (he's turned them down at least twice by now, possibly even more) - so the Neroverdi now have no obligation to sell him to any particular club over another. And that puts Inter firmly in pole position, being the club who have followed him for the longest and who already have his approval.
Over the last week Corriere dello Sport, Tuttosport, Alfredo Pedulla, Sport Mediaset and many other Italian news outlets have all reported that Berardi is one of Inter's top transfer targets for the upcoming summer, with Stefano Pioli having reportedly expressed his desire for the club to sign someone who is left-footed but is comfortable playing on the right wing. Negotiations have not begun yet but Carnevali's interview to SportMediaset on Thursday suggests Sassuolo would be willing to enter into them: "If Suning are crazy about Berardi then they're right to be so, because he’s a star. If that is really the case then Inter will make an offer for him at an appropriate time, but up to now no offer has arrived. There has been no contact with Inter for Berardi as of now. How much would he cost? When the time comes and there’s the will to do a transfer then we’ll make the right evaluation."
On the fee: according to Pedulla Sassuolo will want more than the €25m that they would have sold him to Juventus for last summer. Maybe not as much as the €40m Carnevali himself suggested a week ago, but somewhere in between the two for sure. Berardi won't come cheap, that much is clear. But even if that's true, it really seems likely that this transfer will happen, because it just fits everybody perfectly. Sassuolo will get a good sum of money for a player they know that they cannot keep forever; Berardi will get his dream move to the club he's always supported; and Inter will get one of Italy's brightest young attacking talents to kick-start their homegrown revolution.
Watch this space...