Ex-Cagliari Boss Gianfranco Zola: “Antonio Conte Has Taken Inter’s Nicolo Barella Into New Dimension”

Ex-Cagliari Boss Gianfranco Zola: “Antonio Conte Has Taken Inter’s Nicolo Barella Into New Dimension”
April 2, 2021 10:30
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Nicolo Barella has entered a whole new dimension under Antonio Conte at Inter, according to his former Cagliari coach Gianfranco Zola.

Barella has become an irreplaceable midfielder for both club and country since joining the Nerazzurri in 2019, scoring three goals and providing 10 assists for Inter this season.

Zola gave Barella his professional debut as a 17-year-old in Sardinia and took part in a special programme dedicated to the 24-year-old on Sky Sport Italia.

“Of all the things Barella has improved, the one which is making the biggest difference at the moment is his self-control,” Zola, who coached Cagliari for a brief spell in 2015, explained to the Italian broadcaster.

“I don’t just mean the fact he’s picking up fewer yellow cards, it’s mostly the fact he’s occupying a particular space on the pitch and playing with more organisation and discipline.

“He’s settled into a strong team like Inter and it hasn’t diminished his abilities.

“I think this was a huge step he took and as Barella said himself, it was Conte who helped him understand this concept.

“In my opinion this has given him a whole new dimension which makes him clearly superior to how he was before.”

Zola believes Barella is one of Italy’s best midfielders on display at present and compared him to one of the Azzurri’s heroes from the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

“Nicolo is among the most precious assets we have in Italy and he seems set to improve even more,” the former Napoli and Chelsea forward added.

“I can even see similarities with Marco Tardelli because they play in a similar way.

“Both have great footballing intelligence, they have an eye for goal and they know how to play passes, but they’re also physically strong and they get through defensive work as well.

“I see a lot of similarities although they both have their own talents; perhaps Nicolo has better technique while Marco was stronger physically.”

Barella has a huge three months coming up, with both the Serie A title and the European Championships on the line with Inter and Italy.

Zola expects the midfielder will be able to rise to the challenge and use the experiences to improve his game still further.

“Nicolo is certainly a key player for Inter like he is for the Italian national team,” he argued.

“It’s the result of all his work, his commitment and his character.

“He can and must get better because I think it’s very important to keep broadening your horizons; with this in mind Barella will become even more important for both teams.”

Zola also offered his thoughts on Inter’s Serie A title bid, which sees Conte’s side sitting six points clear of AC Milan with 11 games left (while the Rossoneri have just 10 to play).

“Inter are doing important things this season,” he said.

“They’ve been helped by not being in Europe but you mustn’t take anything away the job Antonio is doing, which is extraordinary.

“We know he’s a coach who’s capable of getting the best from his teams, so the individual performances and the results Conte is obtaining are not at all surprising to me.

“I’m pleased there’s a different team besides Juventus top of the table at the moment; not because I have something against Juventus, but because I think this gives more interest to Serie A.”

By Will Beckman

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