Each day there seems to be a new transfer story about Manuel Locatelli and Juventus. And each day, regardless of what’s said, you just know that it’s likely to result in a transfer fee that will certainly test just how much Juventus is willing to spend on a player they desperately need to be the centerpiece of a previously much-maligned midfield.
I mention this because you see what Locatelli did Wednesday against Switzerland and it’s safe to say that €40 million price tag that Sassuolo want is going to be the baseline and not the final figure we see come later this summer.
Italy’s 3-0 win over Switzerland at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome not only displayed just how much Roberto Mancini has this Azzurri squad clicking right now, it was the night where Locatelli announced to the rest of Europe just how good he has become. He is no longer the youngster who had to leave AC Milan for his own good. Nope, now he’s a guy who is capable of doing so much and impacting the game in so many different ways — whether it’s playing a pass out wide to Domenico Berardi to start a fantastic counterattack that leads to his first goal or hitting an absolute piledriver his second goal of the night.
It was the Locatelli show at the Olimpico Wednesday night.
And there’s no doubting that this Juventus transfer target is going to be linked to a few more clubs in Europe — especially those with a lot of money — before the week is over.
If it sounds like I’m geeking out over Locatelli and what he just did, well ... you’re not wrong. You see what he’s able to do out there and it’s hard not to imagine him in a Juventus jersey next season — however challenging that may be knowing where his price tag is doing at the moment — and what a player with his characteristics would mean to Max Allegri’s new project. And while his role with this Italy side is likely different than what he would be asked to do at Juventus, it’s pretty easy to see just what kind of player he’s become the last couple of years at Sassuolo.
It was on display on the first goal, combining with Berardi with an excellent pass out to the right wing and then a fantastic run into the box before an easy finish.
It was on display all game long with his passing and his ball recovery.
It was on display with his second goal, seeing a shooting lane between two defenders and placing his shot perfectly into the bottom-right corner of the goal — with his weak foot.
Locatelli’s dazzling performance is the headliner on another standout display by Italy as a whole. Mancini has this squad looking as good as they have during this lengthy unbeaten run that they’re on. They’re not allowing goals, they’re scoring a ton of goals and they’re just rolling right along no matter who’s on the field at any given moment.
Losing your captain to injury in the first half? No problem.
Changing formations in the second half to protect the lead? No problem.
This Azzurri team is looking like a well-oiled machine more than anything else. Considering just how much football these players have taken part in over the last year, maybe that wasn’t possible just from a physical standpoint. But that’s not the case here. Italy looks like they’re just getting started at Euro 2020 and making the pre-tournament hype look all the more justified as they enter the final game of the group stage.
Manuel Locatelli's game by numbers vs. #SUI— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 16, 2021
100% shot accuracy
90% pass accuracy
8 passes into the final ⅓
4 touches in the opp. box
Top class. #ITA pic.twitter.com/eKPp90rEVR
Oh, and by the way, Juventus should sign Locatelli. They should do it tomorrow and not look back. Controversial opinion there, I know.
I know that won’t happen, but man oh man is he showing just what kind of talent he is right now. Mancini gave him the opportunity to be a starter with Marco Verratti out, and holy smokes is Locatelli running with it.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- One minute Giorgio Chiellini is scoring what we thought is the game’s opening goal. A couple minutes later, he’s coming off the field with a muscle injury. That’s just the reality of Chiellini’s career these days. It’s unfortunate, but the man’s body is just sometimes his own worst enemy.
- Luckily for Mancini, he had Francesco Acerbi — who was Leonardo Bonucci’s central defense partner during Chiellini’s rehab from ACL surgery last year — available off the bench and Italy’s defense didn’t miss a beat. So as good as the starting XI has looked, it’s pretty safe to say this Italy team is as deep as we’ve seen in years.
- I mean, think about it: Federico Chiesa was one of the best players in Serie A from December or January onward — and he’s coming off the bench right now. It doesn’t matter if it’s in attack, midfield or defense, Mancini has so many options at his disposal.
- Seriously, bringing on Chiesa for Berardi just has to have opposing defenses shaking their heads. To do that when the opposition has tired legs — advantage Italy.
- In Italy’s last 10 games, they’ve scored 31 goals and not allowed a single one. That’s crazy.
- Of course now the BWRAO jinx will kick in against Wales. Sorry in advance, guys.
- Gianluigi Donnarumma had little to do again Wednesday night. He did have to make his first big save of the tournament, though, and it sure was a good one.
- Possession numbers were basically even, but Italy outshot Switzerland 13-6. That’ll do.
- This Italy team is fun, man. I know that’s not advanced tactical analysis or incredible diving into the numbers to tell you why they’re doing what they’re doing, but being this potent in attack AND rack up shutouts right and left, that’s impressive as hell.
- It’s also pretty impressive that some of Italy’s biggest individual performances have come from players who are playing in their first major tournament. It’s not just Locatelli who is making a name for himself at the Euros, but a whole lot of other guys, too. Speaks to their talent as well as the faith that Mancini has in them despite their relative inexperience at the international level.
- Well, this is a little bit more salt into the wound, isn’t it?
Getting so many prime Zambrotta vibes from Spinazzola so far in this tournament.— Francesco (@FRANCESCalciO_) June 16, 2021
- Now Italy has the chance to finish atop Group A against our old buddy Aaron Ramsey and Wales. I am pretty sure who the favorite is going to be, and after back-to-back performances it’s not like anybody is going to disagree with the gambling sites.
- The Italian national anthem, even being sung at a capacity-limited Stadio Olimpico, is a beautiful thing, man. More ... more ... more.