Roberto Mancini has picked a rather young squad when compared to the Italy’s past national teams. A pragmatic approach for a side that failed to live up to the expectations in the near past. His decision to include fresh players in the squad, combined with a shift in ideology has enabled a positive reform. The Italian side is no longer just your average defensive walls. This new, young team, is much more entertaining, capable of producing quality results while playing attractive football.
Italy won all the matches in the UEFA Qualifiers. They scored an impressive thirty-seven goals after ten matches while conceding just four. They have maintained the streak in the World Cup qualifiers as well – winning all three matches so far, scoring six and conceding none. So far, it looks like Roberto Mancini has created a rather exciting team capable of competing at the highest level.
📨 Consegna speciale per Manuel #Locatelli❗️
Video integrale 👉🏻 https://t.co/bwwNNovpCS@locamanuel73 #Nazionale 🇮🇹 #Azzurri #VivoAzzurro pic.twitter.com/3An1d2wZy7
— Nazionale Italiana ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@Azzurri) June 6, 2021
The fresh faces included in the squad have gained global attention while also enabling them to prove their mettle. FootTheBall has embarked to inform you of some of the players that teams should “Buy Before The Boom”. The delayed Euro 2020 could very well become the platform where Italy’s Manuel Locatelli earns himself a transfer to one of the bigger clubs in Europe.
WHO IS MANUEL LOCATELLI?
Manuel Locatelli is an Italian footballer who plays for Serie A club Sassuolo. His performances have also earned him a call up to the Italian national team. At just eleven years old, the player moved from Atalanta to Milan where he progressed through the youth academies. In July 2015, he signed his first professional contract with Milan.
At 18 years of age, he made his debut for the senior team against Carpi. His first start came in May 2016 in the league match against Roma. The player was deployed as a deep-lying creative midfielder or playmaker role and soon settled into the squad. A series of excellent performances that was triggered by his first goal against Juventus earned him a contract extension.
Manuel Locatelli has made more accurate passes (1670) than any other player in Serie A this season pic.twitter.com/uQiGeDkBgH
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 10, 2021
In 2018, he moved to Sassuolo on loan with an inclusion of a buy clause. A change in manager and the incoming high-value names was the reason for this decision. In his debut season at Sassuolo, the player made 31 appearances and scored three goals. In his current season, the player made 34 appearances, scored four goals and assisted two. Barring Domenico Berardi, Locatelli was perhaps the most influential player in the team this season.
At just 23 years of age, the midfielder has been named as one of the best technical midfielders of the game. Sassuolo has deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation in the league on thirty-two occasions this season. Much of their philosophy revolves around the ability to keep possession. Sassuolo has one of the highest average possession stats in the league with 57.14 per cent.
Much of the I Neroverdi success comes from the fact that they have players like Locatelli who control the game. A modern midfielder who is capable of playing every midfield style possible. Locatelli is especially good with his ability to retain balls and providing passing options.
🇮🇹 Serie A – Best dribble success rate of players to complete 30+
🥇 Manuel Locatelli (22) – 84.6%
🥈 Ismael Bennacer (22) – 82%
🥉 Sandro Tonali (19) – 81.6% pic.twitter.com/WhUSgdf9U6
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 13, 2020
Locatelli is not the kind of player that thrives on earning assists. Rather, he is the kind of player that is best suited to control the midfield. The player averages 85 passes per game and has an accuracy of 88 per cent (Data: Soccerment). Fascinatingly, Locatelli is not just your average short pass only midfielder who boasts an insane accuracy rate. He is rather a player who has a range of passing capabilities under his belt. Be it a line breaking through ball or a flank switching long pass, Locatelli deals with ease.
Highest WhoScored rated player without a goal by Europe's top 5 leagues:
🏴 Emiliano Buendia (Norwich) — 7.24
🇪🇸 Kieran Trippier (Atletico) — 7.13
🇮🇹 Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo) — 7.18
🇩🇪 Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig) — 7.28
🇫🇷 Marco Verratti (PSG) — 7.32 pic.twitter.com/eqn3DLnDe1
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 28, 2020
In many situations, the player can be seen moving to left channels to receive the ball, before sending in beautiful long balls into the attacking third for his attackers to make use of. A deep-lying creator that excels at finding the right attacking option. When needed, the player also has the feet to out manure opposition players to carry the ball into dangerous positions.
Unlike many of the midfield maestros, this young player also understands defensive importance. Locatelli averages nearly three tackles per ninety and is on a constant lookout for intercepting passes. The young midfielder covers a lot of ground and works tirelessly to win the ball back. When needed, he also turns into your traditional box-to-box midfielder.
Locatelli was burdened with the task of being the next sensation when he arrived in Milan. Although he did pull out some amazing performances, he wasn’t given enough time to settle into the promise he showed. In Sassuolo, the midfielder has regained his spark and has been one of Italy’s most influential midfielders.
What makes him special? Well, many midfielders are capable of neat inter-passing, incredible through balls, and the vision to punish opposition laziness. Many defenders cover the ground efficiently, dictate play and is instrumental to winning the ball back. However, there aren’t many who have the right combination of all these abilities.
Ci siamo 🇮🇹💪 pic.twitter.com/U7eVd8K0Hs
— Manuel Locatelli (@locamanuel73) June 4, 2021
Every player in Sassuolo is aware of the quality the midfielder possesses. The wingers and the attackers make use of his presence to attack defensive lines. Locatelli’s deadly accurate passes and his composure on the ball to find teammates in space is vital to how the team plays. At just 23, the player has the tactical understanding of the importance of ball retention too. Making necessary harmless fouls to unsettle the flow of the game or to stop threatening attacks. The kind of tactical intelligence often seen by the likes of the far more experienced Sergio Busquets and Fabinho.
⭐️ PREMIO GIACOMO BULGARELLI 2020
Manuel #Locatelli premiato come miglior centrocampista del campionato scorso.
A @robymancio il premio come miglior allenatore
👉 https://t.co/tGeF9TGGvy pic.twitter.com/0G93BHZerl
— AIC | Assocalciatori (@assocalciatori) May 28, 2021
The added advantage of work ethic makes him the ideal player for any hardworking midfield. The player shows great promise and the Italians have recognized it. He is already in contention for a regular start in the national team. Locatelli may well be part of the Italy team that storms the tournament outright. If so, a potential big-money move is on the cards.
PREDICTION FOR EUROS
Roberto Mancini has been experimental with his team and has given many fresh faces a chance to prove themselves. Locatelli’s performances under Roberto De Zerbi have particularly caught the eye of the Italian boss. His performance in the friendly against the Czech Republic will also be a pointer when selecting the line-ups for the Euros.
Sale a 4⃣ il numero dei neroverdi convocati in #Nazionale 🇮🇹
Oltre a Domenico Berardi, Manuel Locatelli e Giacomo Raspadori, il CT Mancini ha convocato anche il difensore neroverde Gian Marco #Ferrari 💪
🔗 https://t.co/Y1v7HBT9XL#ForzaSasol 🖤💚 pic.twitter.com/6bzBar4YOW
— U.S. Sassuolo (@SassuoloUS) May 26, 2021
Mancini will more than likely deploy a 4-3-3 system as he has done so across the years. Locatelli will thus be able to shine in the left midfield of the Italian side. Marco Veratti is still recovering from injury and the likes of Pessina and Chiesa might be his only initial competition. The versatility of the Locatelli and his natural understanding of the game should be enough to give him the green light ahead of the other potential midfield names. With Juventus, PSG and Manchester City all in hot pursuit for the midfielder, his ambitions for the Euros will be on a high.
IDEAL LANDING SPOT
Juventus have replaced Andrea Pirlo with former boss Massimilano Allegri. Allegri has reportedly shown interest in the 23-year-old and there is a strong possibility that the Italian giants will grant the wishes of their much-adored manager. The Italian could fit in well with the plans of the new manager and a move seems like the right decision for both parties.
Sassuolo CEO Carnevali about Manuel Locatelli’s future: “We’ll decide after the Euros, we want to make Manuel happy [selling him this summer]. Many clubs from top European leagues are interested in him”, he told Tuttosport. 🇮🇹 #transfers
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) June 3, 2021
PSG have also shown interest in the player amidst an uncertain period in the French capital. Locatelli’s stellar performances in the Serie A could be an asset to the Paris midfield. With Mbappe and Neymar daunting the wings, Locatelli can add a vibrant threat from midfield.
Manuel Locatelli to L'Équipe: "I'm open to an experience abroad of Italy. PSG? I'd like this kind of opportunity, PSG is a world top club in a great city". Manchester City have been scouting him for a long time, Juventus have Locatelli on their list. Open race. 🇮🇹 #transfers
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) May 11, 2021
However, Manchester City’s interest might be the most alluring of all. Locatelli fits well into the system of possession-based football. His versatility is ideal for a side coached by Pep Guardiola and his industrious performances could boast the already capable midfield. The added benefit of playing in the Premier League will also be a highlight if a move is made for the player.