US national youth team player Vincenzo Bernardo has just signed a 3-year professional deal with Serie A side Napoli which ties him to the club until 2011. Currently with the Napoli reserve team, the 18 year-old New Jersey native saw his fortunes rise this fall after a strong reserve friendly performance against the first team a few weeks ago.
Head coach Edy Reja was so impressed with the young Bernardo's play in the match that he called him in to train with the first team for a week where he showed well and impressed team scouts (as well as some suitors from England and Spain). By the end of the week, Bernardo's agent called him to inform him that the club wanted to offer him a professional contract and by last weekend, the deal was done. "Its a dream come true, I'm very thankful" remarked Bernardo after a training session today at the club's Castel Volturno training grounds.
While Napoli already has a great deal of first team talent at forward, the club indicates Bernardo is likely to be called into first team training when Reja needs to shore up his options, including during UEFA and Coppa Italia weeks and around FIFA international match weeks when the team loses several forwards to national team duty. While they appear to have future plans for him, whether he can crack the first 18 this year remains to be seen but Bernardo is realistic: "There could be a chance at some point but I need to work hard, be patient, and see what happens. Just to be training with the first team is a good experience. "
On training with players like Argentine internationals Ezequiel Lavezzi and German Denis, or Uruguayan international Walter Gargano, Bernardo remarked that: "It definitely raises the bar on everything you need to do since everyone is watching and you are going up against some really good players - you need to perform. They are not only good players but also great people, they are ready to help you and there is a real good feeling with them."
When asked if he'll be getting any future chances with the US National Youth teams, Bernardo stated: "Its always an honor to be called in represent your country. If they call, I'll be there any time they want me.
In the meantime, Bernardo will continue to train alternately with the reserve and first teams and is looking forward to the reserve team's first league match against Ascoli on October 11th.