By Daniel Lucci.
Brescia midfield sensation Sandro Tonali continues to be linked with some of the biggest clubs in European football, including the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, along with roughly half of Serie A.
We know the kid is talented, but what do we really know about the 19-year old?
Already being dubbed the ‘next Andrea Pirlo’ and a midfield maestro, Tonali will have some big shoes to fill if the comparisons continue.
However, even though Brescia have had an up and down Serie A campaign after their recent promotion from Serie B, one aspect of their season that has been the consistently impressive performances from Tonali.
Reports continue to swirl that Juventus are working hard to sign the youngster, and this would make loads of sense for a team with a slow and ageing midfield.
Inter are also reportedly keeping tabs on Tonali, and considering their lack of midfield depth, along with their current Italian midfield core including Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella and Roberto Gagliardini, this would create great chemistry for the Italian National team for years to come.
Let’s not forget former Italy coach, and one of the top coaches in the game at the moment, Antonio Conte is at the helm, making Inter a very desirable spot to play.
Roma are interested as well, although, with a somewhat deep midfield already, together with much more pressing needs in defence and up top, this move seems a little less likely.
A move to the English Premier League seems unlikely based on the fact that not many Italians seem to succeed in the division, e.g. the likes of Patrick Cutrone, Mario Balotelli, Alberto Aquilani — the list goes on, but never say never.
Ligue 1 giants PSG are capable of throwing tons of money at the youngster as they did with Marco Verratti a few years ago, and this could be very persuasive, although it remains to be seen if their interest in Tonali is concrete.
The teenager has already been capped three times by Roberto Mancini’s Italy, and has a strong chance of being included in the Euro 2020 squad — even at only 19-years-old.
What makes Tonali so good? What makes him stand out compared to others? The answer is quite simple: his poise and his wonderful ability with the ball.
The defensive midfielder is able to show calmness and composure in possession, even under duress,which results in comparisons with former Italy great Pirlo.
Also, a skilled passer of the ball, Tonali has the tools to become a successful star for any top European team.
These are all attributes clubs look for in a strong defensive midfielder, but the pressure of being called the heir to Pirlo, or the next Italian superstar midfielder, is unfair to the teenager and will create extra unneeded pressure.
At this point in his career, still a kid with bundles of potential, it is best for him to continue playing as much as possible and to continue to play his game without the noise of fans or scouts in his head.
It seems almost certain that Tonali will stay at Brescia for the rest of the Serie A season, all but ruling out any move away during the January transfer window.
This move would benefit all parties. Tonali will continue to shine, playing in just about every game; Brescia will keep their best player, and hope they can stay in Serie A next season; and Tonali’s future team will get a more experienced player, and not have him wasting away on the bench.
Not only is Tonali cool, calm and collected with the ball at his feet, but he also provides a crucial link from defence to attack, sparking the attack from his team’s defensive end.
The teenager has started 19 of 20 Serie A games, missing only one game due to a yellow card accumulation suspension.
During those 19 games, Tonali has collected four assists and scored one goal — a wonderfully taken free-kick from quite a remarkable distance.
Furthermore, he has been substituted only three times, playing a full 90 minutes in 16 games. The deep-lying midfielder has participated or been involved in nearly 30% of Brescia’s goals this season. For someone who plays so deep to still be involved from start to finish, proves how vital he is to this Brescia team.
Brescia are on the brink of relegation, currently 19th in the Serie A standings. Fortunately for them they are only one point behind 17th place Lecce and only two points away from safety.
Selling Tonali in January would not be the best idea for them if they hope to stay up in Serie A. Their chances of staying up are difficult as is and would be nearly impossible if he were sold during this transfer window, which is why many believe it is almost certain he will remain until at least the summer.
If anyone is able to help them salvage the season it is Tonali, with a little help from their hot-headed striker Balotelli, of course.
This season, in his first Serie A campaign, Tonali has been able to show us that he is able to play and flourish among some of the top players in Europe.
If he is able to continue to develop his wide range of skills, it is not out of the question to think he can become one of the top midfielders in the game within the next few years.
With his prime footballing days still many years down the road, Tonali has the abilities to make a major impact in the footballing world, wherever he decides to play next.
Similarities between Tonali and Pirlo are noticeable, whether it is how they both grew up playing at Brescia, their vision on the pitch, their poise on the ball, their passing abilities, or even their long flowing hair, but it is still too early to say if Tonali can be the heir of the great man.
During his time Pirlo was able to win a World Cup, UEFA Champions League, numerous Serie A titles and he was able to make all his surrounding teammates better. Attempting to fill the shoes of an Italian footballing icon is certainly not an easy task, and the pressure of that can potentially hurt Tonali’s game rather than help it.
At such a young age the comparisons and pressure are not ideal, the best way to see what Tonali can really do is to just let him play his game!
His stock continues to rise and it will be very interesting to see how much teams will be willing to spend on the midfield teenage sensation.
Tonali has what it takes to be a top midfielder in the game for both Italy and wherever else he decides to play his club football. It may be too early for the Pirlo comparisons, or maybe some believe the comparison between the two are not even accurate, but one thing is for sure, Tonali continues to show he has the abilities and talent to make a legacy all of his own.