While a good chunk of the transfer business for AC Milan seems to be done, rebuilding the midfield seems to be the biggest task at hand. Right now, it appears that Lucas Biglia will share defensive midfielder duties with Tiemoué Bakayoko, once the loan deal from Chelsea is made official.
Of course, if Gennaro Gattuso sticks with his preferred 4-3-3 formation, which looks to be pretty certain, this would mean that there won’t necessarily be a place for Manuel Locatelli to play on a regular basis, even with Biglia’s less than sparkling history of injury. So what is Milan to do with the 20 year-old midfielder?
Reports are coming out again that Milan would be interested in sending the young midfielder out on loan, with Sassuolo leading the pack as a possible destination. And while a loan deal for Locatelli might make sense for everyone involved, the reported inclusion of an option to buy would be a tremendous mistake.
It was pretty obvious from preseason that Locatelli isn’t good enough to be the full-time starter as one of the three midfielders in a 4-3-3. And that’s okay. He’s still only 20 years old, and is growing into the position. Landing a deal for Bakayoko would help cover the position for the near future, and sending Locatelli out on loan to get valuable playing time while Biglia and Bakayoko cover the position is actually a pretty good plan.
However, selling Locatelli, or even putting in an option to buy with the loan, is a short-term gain that sacrifices long-term benefits. Locatelli is the kind of young player that Milan should hang on to, while players like Biglia or Riccardo Montolivo, who are not in the long-term plans of the club, should be allowed to leave in the next few seasons.
If Locatelli does go out on loan to Sassuolo, it should only be as a loan, with no option to make the deal permanent. Milan can ill-afford to sell Locatelli for the relatively small price of €12 million when replacing him in a few years could cost upwards of €30 million. There are plenty of examples in Milan’s recent past that giving up on young players has come back to bite them, and allowing Locatelli to permanently leave would be another mistake.