Welcome back to Inside Europe, where we provide insight and information on what is happening across the continent as Euro 2020 continues to compel and captivate football fans everywhere.
Today, we are taking a look at Italy, perhaps the most impressive team witnessed at this summer’s tournament so far, and in particular Manuel Locatelli, the all-action central midfielder who lit up the Azzurri’s 3-0 win over Switzerland on Wednesday night.
We asked our colleague at Eurosport Italy, Carlofillipo Vardelli, for the inside track on Locatelli - what sort of player he is, what his future might hold and why he has been so effective for Roberto Mancini’s side at Euro 2020…
Juventus sign 19-year-old Brazllian forward Kaio Jorge from Santos
- Locatelli double sees Italy march into last 16 of Euro 2020 after hammering Switzerland
- Locatelli gives all the credit to a 'fantastic group' following his two goals against Switzerland
THE COMPLETE MIDFIELDER
Locatelli is a very technical player. He has great passing skills (check out his stats for the 2020/21 season), good physicality and great intelligence in understanding the moments of the match.
He knows how to start attacks, with two touches, he knows how to carry the ball, he is quick in distribution and he is flexible. Locatelli knows how to play both in a two-man midfield and in a three-man midfield.
Furthermore, as you saw against Switzerland, he also knows how to shoot from the outside the box with both feet and he times his runs into the box well. In short, he is a very complete playmaking midfielder in possession.
In my heart, I hoped Locatelli would repeat what he has shown in the last three years for Sassuolo, but I didn't expect these things at Euro 2020. I was pleasantly surprised by the personality he has played with [in the games against Turkey and Switzerland].
That Locatelli has been strong on a technical level is certainly not new, but that he could have such an impact on the European Championships right now has been a surprise.
Manuel Locatelli et l'Italie seront au rendez-vous des 8es de finale de l'Euro 2020
Image credit: Getty Images
ON THE MOVE?
Locatelli had a fantastic season for Sassuolo who were dreaming of Champions League football for the first part of the campaign. In the end, they fought with Roma to enter the Europa Conference League.
This was still a crazy result for a team that, until recently, played in Serie B. In all this, Locatelli was one of the best midfielders in the league, with four goals (a career-high tally in Serie A), and three assists while showing an extraordinary technical mastery. His limelight season.
However, Locatelli will leave Sassuolo this summer. Juventus have been following him for a long time, and they need a midfielder with those qualities. Furthermore, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain also seem to be on the tracks of the Lecco native. Sassuolo’s asking price is around €40 million (according to what market insiders report), but if he were to continue playing in this way at Euro 2020, it could go up.
Juventus captain Chiellini pens two-year contract extension
2021-22 football season start dates across Europe: Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and more