It is at the international stage that most promising talents complete the transformation to a household name, and Italy’s Manuel Locatelli did no harm to his fast-rising reputation with a midfield masterclass against Switzerland last night.
The Sassuolo midfielder scored twice and was influential in Azzuri’s 3-0 win over Switzerland in their EURO 2020 group stage match.
Locatelli sent Italy into the lead in their second Group A match by getting on the end of a Dominico Berardi cross in the first half. It was Locatelli himself who started the counterattack when he passed the ball to Berardi advancing down the right flank – the midfielder covered half the pitch with a lung-busting run before tapping the ball into the net from close range.
If it was his work rate that made the difference in the first goal, it was his technique that got him the second. It was in the second half that Locatelli connected with a clean strike to slot the ball hard and low into the bottom right corner, and sent Italy two to the good.
The left-footed strike from outside the box got through the legs of the Swiss defenders closing him down and left goalkeeper Yan Sommer with no chance to make a save. Italy were two goals up, and the points were theirs.
Ciro Immobile scored a third to put the game to bed later, as Italy registered their second successive 3-0 win to be the first team to qualify to the Round of 16.
But the night belonged to the 23-year-old Locatelli, who – apart from the brace – was influential in keeping the ball ticking in midfield alongside Jorginho and Nicolo Barella.
Italy were in cruise control from the first whistle to the last, and Locatelli played an integral part – and made the world sit up and take notice of him. Should Italy go deep in the tournament, his stocks will only be on the up.
Check out Locatelli’s goals against Switzerland below –