The phrase ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ is often used to describe midfielders who pride themselves on a rather wide-ranging skillset.
But, when you are talking about Nicolo Barella, such an expression is about as misplaced as one of Sergio Ramos’s penalties.
In a 2-0 victory over Poland on Sunday, as Italy moved to within touching distance of a place in the UEFA Nations League finals, Barella produced a performance that would make the Swiss Army knife look one-dimensional.
There is a good reason why Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal have identified the former Cagliari dynamo as the ideal addition to their already impressive midfields.
There is also a reason why Inter Milan are desperate to ward off the growing list of suitors by handing Barella a new, long-term contract complete with a £75,000-a-week wage (FC Inter News).
The 23-year-old’s statistics during Italy’s most comfortable of victories over Robert Lewandowsk’s Poland make for rather exhausting reading.
There was not only four key passes (the most of any player on the pitch), he also completed more tackles and interceptions than centre-back Alessandro Bastoni, all the while haring around the pitch with the kind of boundless energy that would make even Gini Wijnaldum yawn.
A man tailor-made to play electric guitar in Klopp’s heavy metal footballing machine is rapidly emerging as the vibrant, midfield maestro at the heart of an exciting, young Italy team who look well placed to secure continental glory next summer.
In fact, Barella may just be a run of goals away from establishing himself as one of Europe’s finest all-round footballers.