It was in October 2016 that Manuel Locatelli burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old, introducing himself to the San Siro crowd with a stunning volley against Sassuolo.
The goal – his first for the club – secured a much-needed victory for the Rossoneri, but it was his reaction that will surely live longest in the memories of those who witnessed it.
After bursting into tears, he was still sobbing during a post-match interview.
“It’s the moment that every kid hopes for in their life,” Locatelli said as he struggled to regain his composure. “When I realised where the ball was going, I couldn’t believe it. I started to run and then it was all real.”
While the emotion got the better of him on that occasion, his displays as the campaign wore on were superb: calm, assured and surprisingly mature for a player of so little experience.
After originally filling in for stricken skipper Riccardo Montolivo, Locatelli became indispensable to boss Vincenzo Montella, and added another belter against Juventus a few weeks later.
He ended 2016/17 having made 25 Serie A appearances, averaging 3.5 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per game, but it was his ability on the ball that stood out.
Locatelli succeeded with 82.2% of his 49 pass attempts per 90 minutes, ensured Milan didn’t miss Montolivo and helped ensure a long-overdue return to Europe.
Major investment from the club’s new owners has meant the now-19-year-old has slipped back down the pecking order, but his talent is undeniable and it would be no surprise to see him back in the starting XI very soon.
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