Italy didn’t head to Euro 2020 as one of the favorites to win it, but they look like they can go all the way, especially if Manuel Locatelli has something to do with it.
Roberto Mancini’s men are currently on a 30-game unbeaten streak and have not lost a match since 2018.
Sassuolo Locatelli’s midfielder impressed during tournament[/caption]
A key cog in the former Manchester City manager’s system during this time has been Locatelli.
The midfielder put his name on the map with his exploits in the Azzurri victories over Turkey and Switzerland.
After playing in the opener, Locatelli went on to score twice against the Swiss, including a brilliant long-distance strike, and was the best player on the pitch, and is likely to feature again when they face the Wales Sunday, live on talkSPORT.
But who is the young star sought by some of the best clubs in the world?
After starting his youth career with Atalanta, his talent was so evident that at the age of 11 he moved to AC Milan.
He has been compared to Andrea Pirlo from a young age, and for good reason as they share several similarities.
His ability to create chances and dictate the pace of a game, combined with versatility and incredible vision make him a quality midfielder.
Meanwhile, one of the heads of the youth sector, Mauro Bianchessi, estimated it would only take him three years to become their skipper when asked about his talents in 2016.
He insisted: “He is a player of the highest quality, he has been with us since he was 11 and in three years he will be captain of Milan”
It may come as no surprise that ex-Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger sent chief recruiter Neil Banfield to lead the reign over him, so much was the hype surrounding his abilities.
The owner of AC Milan at the time, Silvio Berlusconi, was one of those who called him “the new Pirlo”.
Locatelli was grateful for the comments and he immediately targeted his hero saying, “I appreciate the president’s words, they made me very proud.
“I plan to keep my feet on the ground and give it my all in training. I had a poster of Andrea Pirlo on my wall, it was my idol. I want to imitate him, I watch his matches to learn from him.
After making his Milan debut in 2016, he quickly performed regularly over the next two years, but mostly as a substitute.
At the end of 2017/18, he found himself behind Lucas Biglia in the Milan midfielder, while the club then decided to loan out Chelsea midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko.
This and the club suggesting he should move on loan saw Locatelli submit a transfer request.
His move to Sassuolo in 2018 was a huge success, with the club loaning him out with an obligation to purchase, and Locatelli’s decision paid off.
He said: “I wasn’t abandoned but it’s fair to say they didn’t trust me anymore. I knew Sassuolo was the right choice. I feel important here even though AC Milan has been my life for 10 years.
He had a great year 2020/21, and Roberto Mancini was clearly impressed with what he saw.
It’s not just chef Azzurri who loves Locatelli.
A great season with Sassuolo has seen Juventus linked to his services and Claudio Marchisio, a hero in Turin, is a big fan of the player and his progress.
He said: “I think he’s finished maturing with Sassuolo. Now he’s a totally different player than when he played for Milan, even mentally.
“Inside the match, he manages to dictate the bets and is also very good at reading the different situations of the match, both in the offensive phase and in the defensive phase.”
Speaking about a possible move this summer, the Locatellis revealed: “I don’t know if this will be my last year here or what the future holds. When and if there are opportunities, we will assess them all together.
“Playing abroad is an option for me and at the moment I’m not excluding anything. It is part of my job and it means that I have raised my level.
Locatelli is a rising Serie A star[/caption]
“Certain certificates of esteem and interest from big clubs increase my motivation and let me know that I am on the right track.
If the interest comes from abroad, you can bet Man City boss Pep Guardiola, who is said to be a huge fan, will go out of his way for his transfer.
The club, like Arsenal, have been looking for him for years, and sealing his transfer would add to an already star-studded squad
Locatelli’s pleasure in scoring for his country at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday was evident and he always dreamed of representing his country in a major tournament.
Speaking about playing for the Azzurri at Euro 2020, he said: “Representing Italy and the Italian people at Euro is a great responsibility that everyone wants to have. It is something. to tell our children
“For me, it’s a dream that I have had since I was a child. I used to watch these competitions on the big screen with my friends.
And off the pitch, he also did some nonsense during the tournament.
After Cristiano Ronaldo snubbed Coca-Cola by removing their bottles at a press conference, Locatelli joined in the fun by doing the same.
The competition is only heating up, but so is Locatelli and he is one to watch as a summer transfer seems almost certain.