Of all of Inter Milan's summer recruits, Stefano Sensi has been the most impressive and impactful of the bunch, and the 24-year-old is proving that he should have a big future with the Azzurri.
When Antonio Conte arrived at Inter over the summer, it was clear that the side was set to change. Having scraped into Serie A's final Champions League spot in each of the previous two seasons, the club needed to move in a different direction.
Conte does not settle for fourth place. He is a winner – and in order to close the gap to Juventus and Napoli he needed to make some big signings in the transfer window. In came Diego Godin, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Nicolo Barella.
All four have made an impact already, yet none can be seen as Inter's best new recruit. That accolade goes to midfielder Stefano Sensi.
The 24-year-old came to San Siro as a rather low-key acquisition. He was brought in on loan from mid-table Sassuolo, with Inter having the option to buy him at the end of the season; and has already done more than enough to ensure that the club will make his deal permanent next summer.
Sensi's career at Sassuolo was pretty impressive. Playing 68 times across three seasons, he scored five goals and provided five assists from his central midfield role – but since joining Inter, he has found a new level.
He's scored three goals and assisted a further four in his first six Serie A games this season, playing a not insubstantial part in Inter's 100% record. Able to play on the left-hand side of a midfield three or slightly higher up the pitch in the No. 10 role, Sensi has excelled under Conte.
Coming into this season it looked as though Sensi may have a battle on his hands to establish himself as a regular starter. With Marcelo Brozovic having cemented his place as the team's deep-lying playmaker, there were two spots available for Sensi, Barella, Matias Vecino and Roberto Gagliardini to make their own.
Sensi has been the standout performer by some way. His stunning goal on his Inter debut against Lecce was a sign of things to come. He is no longer a low-key player, but someone who is shining in the current best team in Italy.
His importance to the team is made all the more clear by how much he is missed when he is not playing. During a busy run of games, Sensi was left on the bench against Lazio in late September and it was no coincidence that Inter had their most difficult league game of the season without him, relying on heroics from their goalkeeper Samir Handanovic to secure a narrow 1-0 win. It was noticeable that when Sensi was introduced in the second half, Inter immediately looked more settled and saw out the match with relative ease in the end.
Then on Wednesday night, Inter faced the ultimate test when they travelled to Barcelona in the Champions League. The visitors dominated the first half with Sensi the catalyst, combining his never-ending energy with quality on the ball to help Inter create a number of chances on the counterattack.
He was taken off late on, and had to watch on as Inter lost their shape for the first time in the game with six minutes to go to allow Luis Suarez to score the winner. Inter face Juventus this weekend in the Derby d'Italia, and Sensi will be expected to flourish once more.
During the last international break in September, Sensi was left on the bench for Italy's game against Armenia before starting the next match against Finland. Many questioned why Sensi did not start both games and, given his recent form, it would be foolish for Roberto Mancini to leave him out again.
Instead Mancini should look to build his side around Sensi. The former Manchester City manager has done a fine job in getting Italy back on track since they failed to make the 2018 World Cup and now he must look to take the side to the next level, and Sensi should be central to those plans.
Italy are a side with a proud footballing history. When you think of legendary players of the past, it is largely their defense that receives the most recognition. Names such as Gianluigi Buffon, Paolo Maldini and Fabio Cannavaro roll off the tongue. They have also produced great players deeper in the midfield, such as Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi.
Now they have someone higher up the pitch who can link the play, whilst also scoring and assisting goals.
Italy must cherish Sensi. His kind does not come along too often. It is still early days, but Inter's shining light might just be the next Italian great.