In a rather forgettable season, Juventus had their nine-year reign as Serie A champions ended by rivals Inter Milan in 2020/21.
An embarrassing loss to Porto saw the Old Lady bow out of the Champions League round of 16.
The sacking of Andrea Pirlo seemed inevitable.
Massimiliano Allegri has now returned to his former club, where he won five consecutive Serie A titles. He will be eager to bring Juve back to the top.
In a bid to revamp the squad, the Italian giants are looking to bolster their midfield.
Manuel Locatelli is reportedly the number one midfield target for Juventus. He has also been linked with Arsenal and Liverpool.
Juventus vice president Pavel Nedved: “We’re in talks with Sassuolo to sign Locatelli. We’re convinced we made the right bid to reach an agreement, we’re really confident to complete the deal as soon as possible”. ⚪️⚫️ #Locatelli
To be clear. Liverpool are NOT in the race. #LFC
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) July 31, 2021
Locatelli is a product of AC Milan’s youth academy. He earned his first professional contract for the Rossoneri back in 2015.
Working his way up the youth ranks, Locatelli was deemed as an exciting talent across Italy.
During his three-year spell in AC Milan’s first team, he made 48 first-team appearances, scoring twice.
However, the arrival of Gennaro Gattuso as head coach in 2017 saw him drop down the pecking order.
The Italian joined Serie A side Sassuolo on loan with an obligation to buy for €12.5 million-plus bonuses.
The 23-year-old has elevated his game at Sassuolo and is currently one of the best midfielders in Serie A.
Locatelli often plays on the left of a midfield pivot as a deep-lying playmaker. He acts as the ‘controller’ and dictates tempo from midfield.
His quick one-touch passing and movement allow Sassuolo to bypass the opposition press and progress the ball vertically up the pitch.
He is comfortable receiving the ball under pressure with his back to goal and always makes himself available during the build-up.
Locatelli is tactically astute and finds himself adopting different roles in Roberto De Zerbi’s system.
🎯 Manuel Locatelli made more accurate passes (2426) than any other midfielder in Serie A last season pic.twitter.com/WaSfIPVm2D
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 18, 2021
He starts as the deepest midfielder, often playing as a third centre-back progressing balls from deep.
During attacking transition, he advances up the pitch to occupy the half-spaces and create chances.
Instead of looking for booming long-range passes, he prefers to keep it short and retain possession, making him the perfect midfield conductor.
Last season Locatelli was ranked number one for total passes (81.53) and passes into the final third (69.45) per 90 minutes in Serie A.
In 91 appearances for Sassuolo, he has scored six goals and registered ten assists.
— OptaPaolo 🏆 (@OptaPaolo) March 13, 2021
Despite his towering physique, Locatelli is comfortable with the ball at his feet.
He is highly press resistant and uses his body to shield the ball from the opposition before making a pass.
The Italian is a great reader of the game, which makes him defensively sound. He averaged 2.3 tackles, 1.6 clearances, and 0.5 blocks throughout the 2020/21 Serie A season.
Role at Juventus
In Allegri’s 4-2-3-1 formation, he could slot alongside Weston McKennie in the double pivot.
His ability to spray long-range passes and split the opposition lines from deep bears some comparison with the way Allegri used Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba.
The player comes on the back of an excellent summer of international football.
Locatelli played an essential part in Italy’s Euro 2020 victory, scoring two crucial goals for the Azzurri.
Locatelli is still very young and has the ability to be one of the best midfielders in the world.
A move to one of the biggest clubs in Europe would be hugely beneficial for his overall development.
For a player of his potential, the €40 million price tag is a bargain!