Scouting: Manuel Locatelli
The former AC Milan academy graduate smashing it with Sassuolo.
Manuel Locatelli might be a name you've heard of before, having scored a scorcher against Juventus a couple of seasons ago for AC Milan. Since then, Locatelli has dropped off a little bit, spending the 2018/19 season with Sassuolo, before being purchased outright in the summer of 2019 for what Transfermarkt reported to be £11.25m. Still only 22 years old, Locatelli has used his time with Sassuolo to really demonstrate his qualities at the base of midfield, leaving I Neroverdi 11th in Serie A, 4 points from 7th placed AC Milan, before coronavirus brought footballing activity to a halt.
With quality players like Domenico Berardi and Jeremie Boga around him, Locatelli is perhaps not the stand out player for Sassuolo, but his numbers are definitely promising. A defensive midfielder by nature, Manuel is managing 2.3 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per league 90, highest in the I Neroverdi squad. Partner this with an astounding 86% pass accuracy from an average 63 passes per league match, Locatelli is the most efficient midfielder for Sassuolo. May it also be noted that of the 63 passes, Manuel manages 3.4 accurate long balls, a very promising number.
Factoring in a very decent 1.7 key passes from deep midfield, Locatelli has managed 4 assists in just short of 1,600 league minutes. That's more key passes per 90 than Bosnian Juventus maestro Miralem Pjanic and more assists than speed monster Douglas Costa. Perhaps deserving of playing in a side more fitting of his quality, AC Milan seem to have made a massive mistake letting the academy graduate go. Given their issues behind the scenes recently, keeping Locatelli could've got a fair few fans onside had The Rossoneri helped their academy graduate to stardom. Either way now, Locatelli is a very promising player and definitely has potential to rise to the upper echelons of the game.
Still only valued at a poultry £14m, per Transfermarkt, a mid-table Premier League club could easily come in and claw Locatelli away from Italy. With Morgan Schneiderlin and Fabian Delph both now 30, Everton could bring in the Italian for a fair price to challenge for a starting spot to partner Andre Gomes in midfield. With The Toffees needing replacements for the likes of Gylfi Sigurddson and with Seamus Coleman now ageing and Djibril Sidibe not impressing on loan, Everton would still have plenty of cash to spend on other areas of the squad, most notably right back.
West Ham could be an interesting prospect for Manuel, with Mark Noble now in the twilight of his career and Chelsea and Manchester United circling for Declan Rice, The Hammers could do a lot worse than steal Locatelli from Sassuolo. Recouping Rice's market value of £44m, the italian would cost a minority of that fee. We could see Locatelli putting in performances in the middle of the park for near enough a decade for the London based side.
A switch further up the Serie A table to Napoli would catch the eye. Spaniard Fabian Ruiz has impressed massively since his switch from Real Betis, causing Real Madrid and Manchester City to monitor the defensive midfielder and Polish international Piotr Zielinski being observed by the likes of Chelsea, replacing one of them with Locatelli could be an attractive prospect for both player and team. It would permit Locatelli to challenge for European competition and maybe Napoli could return to challenging Juventus at the summit of Serie A, having dropped off since the departure of Mauricio Sarri.
A transition to a Bundesliga side like Borussia Monchengladbach could see Locatelli ignite and shine. With clubs interested in Swiss international Denis Zakaria, Manuel could deputise in Die Fohlen's midfield and for a fair price too. Working under the promising Marco Rose would definitely be somewhat fascinating too.
Either way, AC Milan have lost a gem in Locatelli, and they could well regret it.