The Italian impressed during a spell at Torino, however he failed to make the desired impact after making a move to Monaco last summer – with him rarely playing under Thierry Henry before he was sacked.
That said, he’s 23 and a player capped at Italian U-21 level – being a player Benitez has praised when it comes to his offensive capabilities, with Rafa mentioning his quality on the ball and delivery in the moments after he signed.
Here’s Joe Donnohue’s scout report on the left-back – something that was written BEFORE he joined yesterday on loan with an option to buy for £9m:
‘First and foremost, Italian left-back Barreca has been out of favour at AS Monaco, particularly under new boss Thierry Henry, hence the interest from Newcastle United. He has appeared in just seven Ligue 1 games this season – all but one of which were starts under former manager Leonardo Jardim.
‘Since late October, 23-year-old Barreca has been used once by Henry,featuring as a left-winger for 75 minutes in their Coupe de France victory over Canet Roussillon. This means that in terms of match fitness he will not be ready to slot straight into Benítez’s side right away.
‘It is clear the Italian – signed from Torino for £9m in the summer – is out of favour at Monaco and simply not in Henry’s plans. Therefore, you could imagine that the player is keen to make an exit.
‘In comparison to Newcastle United’s current option – singular – at left-back, Antonio Barreca is much more attack-minded. He tends to dribble a great deal more with the ball and will look to overlap on that left side. This is something which could be to Newcastle’s advantage given the tactical setup Rafa Benítez has used over the past month or so with a five-man defence operating with two wing-backs.
‘A move for Barreca would also offer a reprieve to the ever-professional Matt Ritchie who has, in Paul Dummett’s absence, been utilised in that left-wing-back role.
‘Barreca looks comfortable with the ball at his feet, displaying some neat touches and flicks as you would expect from an Italian full-back. His technical dexterity looks to be at a level which would be more than capable in the Premier League, and his considerable speed with and without the ball would mean that Newcastle’s two wing-backs’ (DeAndre Yedlin and Antonio Barreca) skillsets would somewhat mirror each other.
‘Very adept at going past players, but does cede possession often, indicating that perhaps his speed gets the better of him at times, as well as needing to be better at decision-making.
‘His decision-making was questionable during Monaco’s 4-0 Champions League defeat to Club Brugge, when fifteen minutes into the match attempted to charge down and block a shot which was going high and wide with a ludicrously-raised arm. He subsequently conceded a penalty which gave Brugge the lead.
‘He is not the most robust defender and in a back-four seems to be caught out on too many occasions. Against Olympique de Marseille, and Dijon FCO – his only league appearance under Henry – Barreca was caught out in similar fashion in two separate incidents.
Failing to remain in line with his defence, the opposition winger was able to run in behind in that left-hand defensive channel and lay the ball on a plate for Florian Thauvin. In the Dijon game, Barreca looked slow to react to a very similar passage of play, allowing Mickaël Alphonse to score.
Defensively, he does not look as solid as Paul Dummett, but going forward has that verve and class that we often associate with continental players.
I would have reservations over his positioning as well as his physicality in the Premier League; in Ligue 1 he seems to be bullied by more full-bodied attackers and wingers which wouldn’t bode well for the step up to the Premier League.
Tactically, his profile fits the system Benítez has been using, but it’s whether he can adapt to England, learns the language to a good standard and works in cohesion with the rest of the defence that will be the real acid test of his quality.
An interesting assessment ahead of tomorrow’s game with Spurs – with the Italian available for selection, even though it seems unlikely that he features.
It sounds like he’s got talent and is quick, direct and good technically, but there’s doubts over his positioning and physicality.
Here’s him in action: