Not many players in the world would turn down the chance to wear Juventus’ famous No.10 jersey. But Federico Bernardeschi did just that after his $45million move to the Serie A giants during the summer of 2017.
The Italy international was anointed the heir to Roberto Baggio’s crown during his Fiorentina days and it appeared as though he would follow the same path as Il Divin Codino when he swapped Florence for Turin.
However, Bernardeschi had other ideas: “The No.10 is a number I like but I'll need to earn it. Taking the No.33 is the correct choice at this point."
Bernardeschi’s first season with the Serie A champions was a transitional one as he adapted to the demands placed upon him when playing for the best team in the country.
The 2018/19 campaign started in a similar fashion with Massimilano Allegri tweaking his system to accommodate new signing Cristiano Ronaldo. But, in recent weeks, Bernardeschi has stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight. It’s no easy feat.
Juventus have Mario Mandžukić, teenage sensation Moise Kean, Paulo Dybala and Ronaldo all casting significant shadows at the Allianz Stadium right now.
Mandžukić continues to deliver in big matches. Kean has announced himself to the world with six goals in 304 Serie A minutes. Dybala, as ever, is capable of creating something out of nothing and regularly wows fans while Ronaldo has been at his relentless best since the move to Italy, scoring 25 times in all competitions for his new side.
It would be hard to match those exploits. And Bernardeschi hasn’t. But the 25-year-old has started to perform in key fixtures for the Bianconeri.
Since the start of March, the former Fiorentina star has assisted, on average, 0.38 goals per 90 minutes. He's created 0.38 Big Chances, too, as well as playing 0.56 open-play key passes and completing 0.94 dribbles.
He's been a menace for Allegri's men and chipped in with vital assists in victories over Napoli and Atlético de Madrid. It was his delightfully weighted cross in the match against Diego Simeone's men which Ronaldo powerfully headed home to kickstart their famous UEFA Champions League comeback.
It was another wonderfully floated cross on his trusty left foot which resulted in the second goal against Napoli. He is pinpoint in his precision when given time on the ball in dangerous areas of the pitch.
It's why he could be invaluable for Juventus for the remainder of the season as they look to reclaim the UEFA Champions League, a trophy they last lifted in 1996. In Ronaldo and Mandžukić, Juve have two of the greatest aerial threats in European soccer.
If the service to them is on-point then they're near impossible to stop. Bernardeschi's open-play key pass map, shown above, highlights just how effective he is in wide areas. His balls into the area often result in chances for Juventus.
Juventus' No.33 could be the ideal foil for the two forwards. If he's the man to provide the ammunition which helps deliver Juventus that elusive Champions League crown then he might be acknowledged as the heir to the great Alessandro Del Piero in Turin.