I recently interviewed Vincenzo Bernardo, the Italian-American who was once of Napoli and now plays his soccer in Austria. He was born in New Jersey and reminds me a lot of Giuseppe Rossi. Visit his website at www.vincenzobernardo.net and follow him on Twitter at @VB10.
Kristan: Moving to Italy at a young age from the MetroStars seemed a big move. How smooth was your transition to Naples and did you have other options in Italy at the time?
Vincenzo: Well my family is Italian and originally from Naples so I would always go on vacation there. I was familiar with the language and somewhat the lifestyle, but actually living there for a little over 3 years was really a unique experience. I would have to say the transition wasn’t easy but, it went fairly smooth.
You made the surprising decision to leave Napoli. What was your motivation to move on?
It was a decision that I was basically forced to take due to the circumstances. During my last year I was told that I would get an appearance in Serie A by the end of the season as well as a loan to a team in C1 for the following season. Unfortunately when I returned to preseason during the summer transfer window none of these promises were kept. I was sad to leave Napoli but it was a decision I had to take to move forward with my career.
An Italian-American from New Jersey who was at a Serie A side, the comparisons to Giuseppe Rossi seem all too easy. How would you describe your style of play?
I would say that I am a very smart player. I use my technical ability as well as my tactical intelligence to my advantage. I’m very quick and I can finish well around goal. I see myself as an attacking outside midfielder or a supporting striker.
Do you think as a deeper lying striker you could fill a potential void for the US as that link up man between midfield and attack?
I think that it’s very early to say. Right now I am fully focused on getting a lot of game minutes and developing physically and technically each day so that when my opportunity comes I can prove that I am ready. I hope one day I can have the honor of being part of the national team.
A much traveled man from your career history, what made you decide Austria should be the next step in your career?
I felt that being young and coming out of a prestigious youth system I was ready to be part of a club where I can get as much playing time as possible at a professional level. Fortunately I had the opportunity to come to Austria. After spending some time with the players and becoming familiar with the lifestyle here, I felt that this was the ideal place for me to really settle down and focus on my game. I am very grateful FC Hochst gave me this opportunity.
I’ve noticed you tweeting about your lack of proficiency with the German language. How hard is it on the pitch when you don’t fluently speak the language?
To be honest, it hasn’t been a problem because most of my teammates speak and understand English. I feel that soccer is a language of its own and is understood between the players on the field.
Your contract in Austria expires at the end of the season. Will your next deal look to be more long term so you can establish yourself?
I hope so. Obviously It doesn’t always depend on me but I would love to be part of a club knowing I can have more than a year to actually adapt and establish myself. We will see what happens once the season comes to an end. Right now I just want to focus on Hochst and doing well here.
As well as the soccer player staple of Twitter, you have a personal website. Do you think it’s important for modern players to have those media outlets?
Yeah I think it’s very important as a player to have your name out and stay connected to the people who follow your career. Especially when you are young and living away from home. It’s always nice to get the support from people all over the world as well as America. It truly means a lot to me and I thank everyone who is by my side.
Is there anything you miss about living in the US? Does your family still live in NJ?
Of course I miss my family and friends back home but I try not to think about it too much. I guess you can say I have adapted to this lifestyle since I left home at 16 to live and play in italy. To be honest, having training everyday and a game on the weekend it really keeps me busy. Also Facebook and Skype has made it a lot easier to connect with everyone. I always look forward to coming home to Jersey during my offseason break.
The USMNT has a real young feel to it. Do you think that will benefit the team in the long term?
Yeah, I think it can only benefit US Soccer in general. There is a lot of talent and if we are given the opportunity and the experiences to be part of a national team at such a young age it can be positive for the future.
Some of those USMNT players are still plying their trade in the MLS. Has that ever been a consideration for you, to return home and play?
I am very attracted to MLS. I think the level of play has grown and the league is moving forward in a positive way. Last winter I considered the option to play in MLS but the timing wasn’t in my favor due to the CBA, etc. Now that everything seems to be sorted out I would love to consider MLS an option in the near future.
The reason I ask that is that by playing in Austria do you think it’s difficult sometimes to get the attention of selectors when you aren’t playing in a much publicized league?
I think playing in Europe has its advantages and disadvantages. Like you said, playing in Austria may be more difficult to get a certain amount of attention compared to playing in MLS. But I also feel that playing in a European league is an experience that is respected and is taken in high regards.
Off the field how do you relax. Are you an active explorer of Austria?
Well, Hochst is a small town right on the border of Austria and Switzerland so I can literally walk to Switzerland. I am also about 20 minutes away from Germany. If I’m not visiting the surrounding countries I am usually at home surfing the internet, watching TV or playing Playstation.
And finally how do you hope the summer pans out. Would you hope to secure a move further up?
I hope to be healthy and end on a positive note here with Hochst. I want to go home for my offseason with my mind set on where I will be playing for the following season. Obviously a move up is the goal for next season.