The new 26-year-old is the record holder for appearances in Serie A among those born after 1997 and in the top 5 leagues on the continent, very few can boast numbers like his at a similar age: captain future has no intention of stopping…

    Excluding those born in June, it happens to very few footballers to celebrate their birthday on a day without training scheduled. This is the case of Nicolò Barella, who today blows out 26 candles on the second of the two days off given by Simone Inzaghi to his players after the brilliant victory in the derby against Milan. Free time and family, then, with maybe a few minutes of reflection that at the annual halfway point it’s everyone’s turn: the midfielder has only reasons to smile.

    In Italy

    There is one adjective in particular that can be attributed to Barella since the time of the Cagliari youth team: precocious. At an age in which players usually fight for a starting position, he was already captain of the rossoblù and now he deserves the nickname of “future captain” when three or four teammates precede him in the “line of succession” they can leave Inter. This precociousness is testified by a specific datum: among all the players currently involved in Serie A, he occupies the 53rd place for appearances (219) despite having almost a decade as a starter ahead of him. It is no coincidence that all those 52 colleagues are older than him: he is in fact the record holder among those born after 1997, according to the 25-year-old Manuel Locatelli with 192 stamps on his time card. It’s not enough to be precocious, however: Barella is also incredibly incisive. Take the current Serie A season: only three players other than Nicolò have combined at least five assists with as many goals. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Rafael Leao and Paulo Dybala. A poker of names destined for the roof of the world.

    In Europe

    If you want to broaden the spectrum to the rest of the continent to avoid being too self-referential, you can consider the five top leagues in Europe (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 in addition to A). By combining appearances, goals and assists in the various leagues, the Under 26 talents with similar statistics can be counted on the fingers of one hand. In fact, there are very few who in mid-career have already gone beyond 200 appearances, 15 goals and 30 winning assists. There is the Kylian Mbappé phenomenon of Paris Saint-Germain with an industrial production from Ballon d’Or, then strikers blossomed from teenager: Spanish Mikel Oyarzabal from Real Sociedad, English Marcus Rashford from Manchester United and Frenchman Allan Saint-Maximin now at Newcastle United. Not surprisingly, they are all players with valuations between 50 and 100 million euros, like Barella. The name of the only midfielder in this group is curious: Ludovic Blas from Nantes, another who has already tasted the honor of the captain’s armband. As a pillar of the Italian national team and future captain of Inter, Barella’s path is marked with this pace: sky is the limit, the limit is only the sky, as they say overseas.