When Manuel Locatelli announced himself to the football world, it was a lanky midfielder playing for AC Milan. Playing against a dominant Juventus side, Locatelli cut into the box from the right-hand side, steadied himself, and lashed an unstoppable drive beyond the Juventus goalkeeper. However, despite a wonderful start to his career at his boyhood team, Locatelli soon dropped out of regular rotation and eventually was sold to Sassuolo.
However, having made a name for himself in Italy with the provincial outfit, Locatelli is now likely back on the transfer hunt. He is comfortably among the best midfielder players in Serie A in the 2020-21 season and has made a name for himself. Long, searching, cross-field passes mixed with smart possession play and strength on the ball, matched with a great drive and ball control, makes Locatelli the ideal modern midfielder. Add in his height and relative pace, too, and it is clear that many sides see a future superstar in the Milan youth academy prospect.
Now 23, a move to one of the true giants of the European game looks likely. Interest has come from Germany, but the hardest interest is believed to come from three clubs: Manchester City, Juventus, and former club Milan. With all three clubs all but guaranteed to be in the UEFA Champions League next year, it will be down to Locatelli to decide what he wants.
The ‘guarantee’ of titles and domestic stardom with Juventus? A chance to finish off old business in Milan? Or a new start in the highest paying league in the world?
It is hard to say for sure, but it looks almost certain that Locatelli will be playing in a new shirt next year as opposed to Sassuolo’s. The only question, then, is who?
Who will Locatelli sign for?
At the moment, reports in Italy suggest he is closest to a move to Juventus. The Italians are known to want a midfield rebuild and can offer a position in the team that other sides perhaps cannot. Milan, though, could see him as the ideal returning player for their academy needs in terms of UEFA registration requirements. A lifelong Milan supporter, too, Locatelli would offer a long-term piece of the puzzle for the club to build around. Can Milan, though, sell one of their current midfielders to make space for him?
For now, then, the reports are strongest with Juventus. The team that is believed to be keenest, though, might actually be City. Manager Pep Guardiola has been a long-time admirer from afar and could see Locatelli’s versatility and intellect as the ideal addition to a midfield that is steadily growing older and, as a consequence, slower.
Whether or not he will make the move to Italy or England is uncertain, but it looks almost guaranteed that Locatelli will be playing in the UEFA Champions League next season. And barring the most miraculous of miracles, it will not be in the green and black of Sassuolo.