With two second-half penalties, Domenico Berardi was the hero for Sassuolo once again as the side from Reggio Emilia came from behind to defeat Fiorentina 3-1 at the Mapei Stadium, but also delivered a much-deserved milestone for the attacker.
The first of those 12-yard strikes – expertly fired into the top left-hand corner past Bartlomiej Dragowski – made it 100 goals in all competitions for the Neroverdi, since debuting for the club in Serie B back in August 2012.
A prominent role in Sassuolo’s charge to the 2012/13 Serie B title was recognised with the division’s Player of the Year award. More significantly though, it was recognised by Juventus paying €4.5 million to secure 50 percent of his registration.
However, during the last eight years, a move to the Old Lady of Italian football has never materialised, yet Berardi has become one of the most accomplished and entertaining players in Serie A – perfectly representative of the club he represents.
That the 26-year-old has only been rewarded with ten international caps, possibly highlights the struggles of players at clubs outside the traditional elite to break through, but also, after resisting moves away, has not been fully challenged at the highest level.
A dip in goalscoring output – averaging just six goals a season between 2015/16 and 2018/19 – after two stunning first seasons in the top-flight, raised concerns that Berardi’s peak was those prolific early years, but not so.
The decision to remain with Sassuolo and not accept the riches on offer elsewhere, in Serie A or beyond, has benefitted both club and player, with Berardi able to undergo the natural evolution without the burden and expectation that comes with a big-money transfer.
With two years left on his contract and approaching what is widely considered the peak years of a footballer, should the attacker miss out on the delayed 2020 European Championship this summer, it might be the perfect time to consider new opportunities.
The Neroverdi supporters could hardly begrudge him a move, given the service he has given them, and, injuries permitting, Berardi still has the best part of a decade to win the trophies his talent can surely help bring.
Regardless of where the immediate future is, the attacker has cemented his place in the hearts, minds, and history books of Sassuolo.