Manuel Locatelli admits he would be tempted to leave Serie A and Sassuolo this summer with Arsenal and Manchester City keen on the Italy international, speaking to L’Equipe.
While Thomas Partey has undeniably underwhelmed during his debut season at the Emirates, the former Atletico Madrid enforcer can’t be expected to shoulder all the blame for Arsenal’s midfield problems.
Granit Xhaka’s absence for the doomed Europa League semi-final second-leg clash with Villarreal shone a fluorescent light on the lack of top-quality options available to Mikel Arteta in the centre of the park.
The limited Mo Elneny was the only midfield option on the bench, with Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard struggling to offer the requisite presence and discipline to dominate proceedings in Arteta’s ill-fitting 4-1-4-1 formation.
Signing a player such as Locatelli, then, would go a long way to making Arsenal a more balanced team. The £30 million-rated, former AC Milan youngster is one of those players who can do everything – pass, tackle and set the tempo from his favoured deep-lying role.
Il Resto del Carlino reports Arsenal would jump at the chance to bring Locatelli to north London. Arteta faces a battle with his old mentor, though. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have identified the 23-year-old as their number one midfield target.
“I thank Sassuolo because they believed in me when nobody did. But we all know what’s the best path to take this summer – and it can lead to Italy or abroad,” Locatelli said, hinting heavily at an imminent departure from the Mapei Stadium.
“I am open to a new experience outside Italy, because you don’t get the same opportunity twice. PSG are a top club. There are Italian (players) but also Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, a future Ballon d’Or winner. And Paris is a lovely city.”
Interestingly, the Italian isn’t the only energetic, technically gifted midfielder linked with a move to Arsenal. Yves Bissouma, Denis Zakaria and Sander Berge have been identified as potential additions too.