This season, manager Siniša Mihajlović hasn’t been afraid to rely on youth to propel the club to positive results. With the appointment of 17-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma as Milan’s starting keeper back in October, this has proven to be a wise move. With the recent call-up of 18-year-old Manuel Locatelli, we may be witnessing yet another youth star in the making under the red and black regime.
After want-away midfielder Antonio Nocerino had his contract terminated by Milan earlier this month, the door opened for Mihajlović to summon another young talent from the deep Milan Primavera side led by Cristian Brocchi; and he did just that with the call-up of the dynamic midfielder Manuel Locatelli.
What you need to know:
Name: Manuel Locatelli
Date of Birth: 01.08.98
Current club: Milan
Height: 1.82 meters
Caps: Italy U-15 (5 app), U-16 (2 app), U-17 (25 app, 1 goal), U-19 (7 app)
Who is Locatelli?
Manuel Locatelli is an 18-year-old midfielder from Lecco, Italy. Born and bred in Italy through the rossoneri academy, Locatelli stands in at roughly 6’1″, 165lbs and has a bundle of qualities capable of making him a star in Italian calcio for years to come.
Aside from his recent call-up for the club, Locatelli has quickly – and quietly – risen through the ranks of the national side. He’s climbed from the under-15 side all the way to under-19 squad with manager Paolo Vanoli.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Locatelli possesses many strengths, even as a teenager. Manuel is more of a “modern midfielder,” meaning he can be deployed in multiple rules and provide a bit of everything. Primarily played as a regista, he has a good understanding as to when to protect the goal, covering gaps between the midfield and the defence. He isn’t shy from diving in for a tackle and showing his aggressiveness either. The former primavera starlet has impressive vision and reads the game awfully well, allowing him to intercept play with regularity. Now that we’ve covered his defensive attributes, it’s time to recognize his offensive abilities.
The 18-year-old has a light first touch. He always plays with his head up and is observant of the game in front of him. Because his vision and ability to read the game are two of his strong suits, the Italian has exceptional passing accuracy on both long and short passes. These qualities allowed him to excel as a playmaker in front of the defense under primavera manager Cristian Brocchi. In previous years, he often played in a more advanced midfield position, showing the ability to make the final pass, while also finding the back of the net. Mihajlović -or whoever manages the club for the foreseeable future – has a versatile, modern midfielder capable of being inserted into an array of setups on their hands.
While Locatelli has many strengths as a dynamic midfielder, he also has some note-worthy weaknesses to his game. At times, he tends to push the envelope, taking many risks with dangerous passes and dribbles right in front of the defence. As a result, Locatelli has a knack for surrendering possession and leaving his side vulnerable to counter-attacking. Because he is not the fastest of players, he must be more cautious in front of the defense as he doesn’t have the recovery speed to win back the ball and nullify costly errors. These are weaknesses that will be exploited in Serie A, or even the lower levels of Italian football should he find himself on loan with another club.
15/16 and beyond
Locatelli has been one of the more raved about prospects in the Milan camp and for obvious reasons. There is a considerable amount to praise about this kid and through training with the first team, he will grasp on certain things which could only help him improve his craft as a versatile midfielder. President Silvio Berlusconi even considered Locatelli the “heir of Andrea Pirlo” for his “great technical skills and imagination.” Given his ability and immense upside, there is no reason Locatelli can’t become a future starter for Milan. He needs to build strength, improve on shielding the ball and be more decisive when holding possession, but those should improve through time and development.
Based on his rapid growth, it’s fair to say that in four or five years, we could see the promising youngster become a starter for the national team as he will be 22-23 and many others will have called it quits for their country by then.
All things considered, Manuel Locatelli is on the fast-track to becoming the next teenager to take Milan by storm.