AC Milan’s youth academy has produced some exceptional players through the years. Club legends such as Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta all learned their trade in the Rossoneri’s academy. Following the examples of these great players is the 18-year old midfielder, Manuel Locatelli.
The youngster is grabbing the attention of many of the European heavyweights with his impressive performances for Milan.
Locatelli attracted interest from Arsenal during the summer transfer window and the Gunners submitted a bid for him which Milan rejected. The Gunners made the offer after their chief scout, Neil Banfield, was convinced of the youngster’s potential.
AC Milan fans would be delighted that the club didn’t let a fine talent like Locatelli slip through their fingers and it is obvious that Milan had a change in their transfer policy as the club are now keen to keep hold of their young players. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, right-back Davide Calabria along with Manuel Locatelli are products of the club’s youth academy and are now part of Milan’s first team.
Manuel Locatelli was born in Galbiate, in the province of Lecco on 8 January 1998. He joined the youth academy of the Italian club, Atalanta, at the age of nine years. In 2009, he caught the eye of the Rossoneri’s chief scout, Mauro Bianchessi, who wasted no time in bringing Locatelli to Milan. He progressed through the youth ranks from the U-12 team, Esordienti, to the U-19 team, Primavera, enhancing his reputation over the years.
Filippo Inzaghi, who was the manager of AC Milan in the 2014-15 season, named the youngster among the substitutes in Milan’s game against Fiorentina in March 2015 and the youngster was promoted to the first team in February 2016 and he made his debut for the 18-time Serie A champions in their 0-0 draw against Carpi, on 21 April 2016.
He came on as a substitute for Andrea Poli in the 88th minute.
The teenager scored his first goal for Milan in a 4-3 comeback win over Sassuolo earlier this month after he was introduced as a substitute. Locatelli’s second goal for Milan was one that grabbed all the headlines, his sublime strike from the edge of the box which was enough for Milan to secure a 1-0 win against Juventus; the Rossoneri’s first win over the reigning Serie A champions since November 2012.
Locatelli, who is currently the captain of the Italian U-19 team, has represented his nation at various youth levels and was a part of the Italian team that finished as runners-up in the 2016 U-19 European championship.
The 18-year-old is a central midfielder who plays the role of a deep lying playmaker which enables him to influence the game. Locatelli’s ability to pass the ball is impeccable and he has quite a range of passes in his armoury, and the youngster has the vision to play long balls forward and diagonal passes to the full-backs.
He is calm and composed in possession of the ball and likes to control the tempo of the game.
The degree of precision in his long range passes has earned him comparisons with Andrea Pirlo and Locatelli is a fan of the midfield maestro.
“I had a poster of Andrea Pirlo on my wall, he was my idol,” said the youngster. “I want to emulate him. I watch his matches to learn from him.”
Even though Locatelli prefers to play in front of the defence, he is proficient in playing as a central midfielder and is not hesitant to lunge in for a tackle. His tactical awareness and positioning is way beyond his age.
In spite of the fact that he is over 6 ft. tall, Locatelli is not good in the air and doesn’t win a lot of aerial duels. The Italian also needs to work on the defensive side of his game as he should be able to break up the play of the opposition more often.
The teenager doesn’t have pace or acceleration and should be diligent not to surrender possession cheaply as he would find it tough to win it back. Also, there is room for improvement as far as his set piece deliveries as concerned.
Locatelli is a slender figure and whether he can be a success in a much more physically demanding league is yet to be seen. However, he is just 18 years old and has time on his side to nullify the weaknesses in his game.
Locatelli recently signed a contract that will keep him at the San Siro till 2020 but considering the swift progress that he is making, it is more than likely that the big guns in Europe would have him on their wishlist pretty soon.
Milan, who are not anymore the European powerhouse that they once were, would certainly find it difficult to keep hold of the youngster.
However, one would feel it will be unwise for Locatelli to move to another club where his game time will be limited. His priority, for the time being, should be to get maximum game time under his belt which would help him become a complete player.
If he keeps his feet on the ground and has desire to improve, Manuel Locatelli can be a star in the future for both AC Milan and the Italian national team.
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