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Manuel Locatelli officially gone: Was he really given a chance to shine at Milan?

Young Italy U21 international is officially on his way to Sassuolo

Atalanta BC v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Manuel Locatelli is off to Sassuolo on loan with an obligation to buy.

The 20 year-old midfielder leaves AC Milan after appearing in just 48 Serie A matches in just a shade over two years.

Locatelli clearly looked uncomfortable and unable to cope in his role as a defensive midfielder during the preseason ICC matches, and it doesn’t come as a surprise to see him depart the club for a loan. He clearly wasn’t ready for a starting role at the club, but given his young age, that’s not surprising.

However, the decision to make the loan deal an obligation to buy and without a buy-back clause as well is short-sighted. Locatelli was a rising star coming out of the Milan Primavera side, and if Milan are going to compete with Juventus, not to mention the rest of the European elite. for trophies, then a solid youth system is needed.

Giving up on 20 year-olds rarely turns out well, especially those who have made 48 Serie A appearances.

I appreciate the line of thinking that Locatelli has had plenty of opportunities to develop and show that he belongs in the first team. However, a couple chaotic years at Milan where he was thrown into the deep end and expected to be able to swim isn’t a fair way to judge his progress.

If anything, Locatelli should have spent last year out on loan in a lower Serie A team, a top Serie B team, or even abroad. Juventus, Chelsea, and Liverpool are all examples of teams that send out lots of fringe players out on loan to develop them while still maintaining a high level in their first team squad. Having a player in their teenage years ride the bench, get in for a few cup matches, and be a spot starter where they will get in over their head, is not a way to successfully develop a player. Playing time and good coaching will develop a player, not just taking part in training.

For example, Locatelli played in 21 Serie A matches last season, but only played the full 90 minutes four times. Three of those appearances came at the end of the season against Bologna, Fiorentina, and Hellas Verona (all wins, btw). He played 10 minutes or less six times, and played less than a half-hour an additional ten times. He barely played in 16 of his 21 appearances last season, and ended up with a total of 668 minutes last season. Of those 668 minutes, 438, or 66%, of them came in just five games.

To say that he’s been giving a fair crack at “playing time” isn’t exactly being fair. If he was playing at a lower Serie A club or in Serie B going 90 minutes week-in, week-out, he would have gotten 668 minutes in a little under seven and half games, and that’s hardly enough to judge a player’s performance, much less progress.

Perhaps Locatelli won’t get any better and will never be good enough to be a regular in the Milan first team. But if he does get better, it can’t be said that he was given a full chance to progress at Milan because he really wasn’t given much of a chance.