As one of the most exciting midfielders in Italian football, Manuel Locatelli is a player with a huge future in the game. His incredible performances in Italy have gained much attention. Having broken onto the scene for AC Milan by scoring an incredible goal against Juventus, past a then-peak Gigi Buffon, Locatelli struggled to handle the pressure. Having admitted himself that it was too much, a move to the more provincial Sassuolo was seen as a good move for the youngster.
Now 23, Locatelli has spent the last two seasons building a quality resume of work in the Italian game. His incredible performances in midfield, becoming a creative lynchpin, has seen all three of the major Italian clubs – Internazionale, Juventus, and former club Milan – come into sharp focus. A transfer in the summer feels almost inevitable, with Locatelli almost certain to wear the colours of one of the big three.
A move for the player has become a common talking point since the middle of last season, when his performances began to reach into overdrive. His exceptional style on and off the ball has played a role in making sure that Locatelli, a rangy passer and a fine distance shooter, becomes a target for the top teams in Italy.
Who is most likely to sign Locatelli?
At first, it appeared that Milan – who the player came through with and is known to still think highly of – were the most likely destination. Top of the table convincingly at one stage, the Rossoneri have fallen short of hope and now face a fight to even quality for the UEFA Champions League. That would naturally have a major impact on their ability to bring in a player like Locatelli, as he would have other offers.
Inter are also seen as a destination, with coach Conte known to be a big fan of the Italian playmaker. However, huge competition for places would make it tough for Inter to offer the kind of opportunity that one would have hoped for. As such, it is unlikely that Inter will be able to make the space in their squad needed for the player. While others could move on, it would be a surprise to see Inter break up a successful midfield to try and bring in the midfielder.
Juventus, then, are seen as the team with both the strongest interest and the biggest need. Locatelli has long been seen as an ideal fit for the modern Juve midfield; and a crucial upgrade on just about every other part of the midfield. With Juventus known to need a midfield revamp, the arrival of the Italian would provide age, range, and the kind of incisive passing that is simply not present in the current Juve team.
One thing is for sure, though; it is highly unlikely that a regular in the Italian national side will continue to play at Sassuolo next year. Despite making progress as a club, it is likely that the point has been reached where Locatelli has outgrown the Neroverdi.