It could all be down to a magic shirt. Vincenzo Grifo's grandfather may be the secret behind the Pforzheim-born Italian's inspiring outings with SC Freiburg in their first season following promotion, with Borussia Mönchengladbach snapping him up for next year.

The son of an Apulian mother and Sicilian father was given a very early introduction to football, and it appears to be having a lasting effect on him. Indeed, he was just three when he trained for the first time for VfR Pforzheim, and he already had something divine.

Divine as in Il Divin Codino – the divine ponytail. That was the nickname given to Italian legend Roberto Baggio and it was one of his shirts that grandfather Grifo gifted his grandson when he first found a football at his feet. He slept in that shirt, and the magic appears to have rubbed off.

Watch: Grifo's lovely chip against Mainz

Baggio's touch was sublime – almost second to none – and Grifo has shown similarly magnetic properties, receiving the ball on average more than any of his teammates. Having possession is one thing, knowing what to do with the ball is another, and the 24-year-old is not found wanting in that department either.

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He took more shots than any of his teammates in 2016/17, and that explains his six goals and eight assists: both appear to be on tap when it comes to Grifo. He works very hard for it too, churning up more grass on average than some of the Bundesliga's renowned midfield engines such as Bayern Munich's Thiago Alcantara.

Freiburg had plenty to celebrate in 2016/17, and Grifo more than played his part in that. © gettyimages / Alex Grimm

Like Baggio, who came to fame in Italy's third division, Grifo also initially showcased his talents at a lower level. It was his 14 goals and 15 assists that propelled Freiburg to promotion to the top flight last season, and this exponential rise is showing little sign of stopping either. The Black Forest side qualified for the UEFA Europa League next season, and that is where another parallel can be drawn: in Baggio's first season in Serie A, he fired Fiorentina into the UEFA Cup.

Although sidelined by injury in the closing weeks, Grifo's contribution to Freiburg's outstanding return to the top-tier of German football was significant. Unfortunately all he could do in the closing stages was watch on from the sidelines, perhaps still wrapped up in that shirt which inspired his career, and see his team-mates fire Freiburg into Europe.

He will not get to play in that competition next season, though, having completed a move to Mönchengladbach. There, he will continue his rise and, who knows, realise his dream of meeting his boyhood heroes Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League in 2018/19. That will be his aim with the Foals, who have certainly strengthened their squad with a man inspired by Baggio.

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