Sassuolo’s deep-lying playmaker, Manuel Locatelli, had gone relatively under the radar before his recent showings for Italy in this summer’s European Championship.
But now, after a brace and a brilliantly executed left-foot volleyed pass out to the wing in last Wednesday evening’s group game against Switzerland, his stature has risen.
Interestingly for Premier League fans, transfer guru, Fabrizio Romano tweeted, after the game, that the top clubs there are interested. But, at the moment, Juventus in Serie A look the most likely to sign him.
Manuel Locatelli has been one of the best Serie A midfielders so far, not surprising to see him shining at the Euros. 🇮🇹🌟 #Locatelli
Sassuolo always asked €40m to sell him… before this match. Premier League top clubs interested, Allegri wants him at Juventus. Open race.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) June 16, 2021
Up until now, Manchester United haven’t been named as an interested party by any major sources but given the fact that they are seeking to sign a deep midfielder, and the £90 million price tag that West Ham United have put on Declan Rice, it is safe to say that they will be monitoring Locatelli’s situation closely.
It is rumoured that Sassuolo, on the other hand, would be content with around £35 million for the 23 year-old, although if his good performances at the Euros continue, that figure will likely rise.
In defensive terms, Rice has the edge, while being Premier League proven, although Locatelli is no slouch defensively and actually makes slightly more tackles than Rice on average per 90 minutes.
However, it is on the ball, and passing in particular, where Locatelli really outshines Rice, and that is arguably the most important attribute a Man United midfielder should have.
Effectively, Locatelli is a deep-lying playmaker in the mould of Tony Kroos or even Michael Carrick. He acts as the metronome at the base of the midfield and regularly takes the ball under pressure.
He likes to play long passes out to the wings, and forward, through the lines. His average pass completion percentage last season was 88%.
Compared to Rice, Locatelli completed more than double the amount of passes last season, while the average distance his passes travel up the pitch per 90 is 421 yards compared to Rice’s 189.5.
The Italian also nearly plays double the amount of passes that lead to a shot per 90 than Rice.
One attacking stat where Rice just edges it is ‘dribbles’.
Locatelli has also shown a degree of versatility by, arguably, playing out of position, in more of a box to box role, for Italy.
It remains to be seen whether Man United will persevere with their interest in Rice and attempt to negotiate the fee down. Jesse Lingard’s loan performances for the Hammers in the second half of last season may also give United leverage.
But when the stats are compared, as well as the rumoured fees, Locatelli looks the better value in the market.
United escalating their interest in the Italian would, perhaps, demonstrate a level of savvy transfer strategy rarely seen at Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.