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'A young Gareth Bale?' Juventus & Inter target Chiesa focused solely on being himself

9:07 AM GMT 27/03/2019
Chiesa celeb Chievo Fiorentina
Europe's elite are lining up to sign the €70 million-rated Fiorentina forward but the 21-year-old wants only to follow his former captain's advice

The late Davide Astori used to say the same thing to Federico Chiesa over and over again.

"Fede, at times a simple, perhaps even banal, play can be the best solution for the team. Dribbling and scoring goals are important things but a normal pass can also be decisive."

Chiesa says that he would remain silent and simply listen to the Fiorentina captain's words.

Even now, the 21-year-old says there's not a day goes by that he doesn't think about Astori, and the advice he continually gave him.

Astori, after all, had been the first person to welcome him into the Viola senior squad after the academy product had been promoted from the Primavera.

When Astori passed away on March 4 last year, after suffering a cardiac arrest as he slept, Chiesa, his team-mates, their club and their city were left in a state of shock and profound sorrow.

Luckily for the youngster, he had the support of a strong family unit to fall back on.

His father, Enrico, had been a footballer himself, an explosive striker who had starred for Sampdoria, Parma and Fiorentina, as well as representing Italy at international level.

He played a pivotal role in helping his son through what was a trying time.

Indeed, had it not been for Enrico and the rest of the family, Federico wouldn't have even made it as a professional.

“For two or three years, I really struggled to get any playing time, as my physique wasn’t as well-developed as others my age,” Chiesa told Undici magazine.

“When you are 14 or 15 years old, it feels like this desperate disappointment.

"I thought many times about giving up, but my family always believed and ultimately so did I.

"When I wasn’t playing, I’d try to think: I’ll play the next one. Working hard in training really paid off. It’s the push that got me to Serie A and now has me trying to improve week by week.

"It’s the same attitude as Cristiano Ronaldo. He doesn’t have the talent of Messi, but has won the same number of Ballon d’Or trophies.

"An exemplary professional like him proves if you want to reach the top and stay there, focusing on every tiny detail is crucial."

So, Chiesa has been meticulous in his approach to the game.

While he enjoys relaxing with his family and friends – and particularly challenging younger brother Lorenzo on the PlayStation – he also devotes hours of his downtime to studying videos of his opponents.

"He never tires of learning," Lorenzo says. And now Federico's dedication and attentiveness are reaping dividends.

Roberto Mancini told Chiesa last summer that he needed to score more goals. He has already scored six times in Serie A this season – as many as he managed during the entire 2017-18 campaign – while he has doubled his overall tally, with 12 goals in all competitions so far.

This is a player developing at a rapid rate and that has not gone unnoticed. Chiesa is arguably the most in-demand player in Italy right now, while it was claimed earlier this week that Bayern Munich have entered the race for his signature.

There have also been constant links with Liverpool – partly fuelled no doubt by the fact that Chiesa speaks English, having been encouraged to learn the language by his parents. Indeed, he sometimes serves as a makeshift interpreter for new Fiorentina signings that don't yet speak Italian.

However, not only are Liverpool unlikely to table a bid, Chiesa's preference is to remain in Italy and, as Goal confirmed on Tuesday, Juventus are presently pondering a summer move for a player they have been monitoring for some time.

The Bianconeri's interest dates back to Beppe Marotta's time in Turin, so it will come as no surprise to learn that the recently appointed Inter CEO would now like to lure Chiesa to San Siro.

Of course, Fiorentina would dearly love for him to stay at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, for at least another season.

Viola director and former attacking midfielder Giancarlo Antognoni is acutely aware that the club have a special talent on their hands but one that will be very difficult to hold on to.

"The truth is that Chiesa is a European level player, not one traditionally associated with Italians," the ex-Italy international told the Gazzetta dello Sport.

"In Italy, we’ve had wide attackers with differing characteristics, such as my friend Bruno Conti or in today’s game Lorenzo Insigne.

"Chiesa has dribbling skills and quality, but also stamina, pace and power. He’s like a young Gareth Bale who drives you crazy and never gives in."

Thankfully, Chiesa seems utterly unfazed by such comparisons or the talk of a €70 million (£60m/$79m) price tag.

"It is a strange feeling if you think about it, but that is my secret: I don’t consider the transfer market valuation at all," he told Sportweek. "I just try to focus on doing well on the pitch.

“Fiorentina will be the ones to evaluate any offers if they come in. I am only in my third season as a professional football player, so I’ve achieved nothing yet.”

He is certainly taking nothing for granted. Despite his rapid rise to prominence, he has taken on a degree in Physical Education and is often found writing papers during pre-season retreats.

Shortly before his death, Astori warned his young team-mate about being weighed down by the expectations of others.

"I tell Federico not to be conditioned by those that want him to become the saviour of the Viola nation," the centre-half revealed. "It's wrong, too great a responsibility, even more so for such a sensitive kid.

"Federico needs only to be himself."

Clearly, Chiesa is still following his captain's advice.