Sassuolo Chairman chose player's dream over Arsenal's money

Juventus v Atalanta BC - Serie A TIM
Juventus v Atalanta BC - Serie A TIM / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

The summer of 2021 became a career crossroads for the rising Italian star, Manuel Locatelli. Fresh off his Euro 2020 victory and eye-catching performances with Sassuolo, Europe's heavyweights circled. A transfer tug-of-war ensued between England's Arsenal and Italy's legendary Juventus.

While Arsenal tempted him with a lucrative financial package, Locatelli's heart yearned for the black and white stripes, highlighting the emotional complexities that often lie beneath the surface of blockbuster football deals.

Arsenal, determined to revamp their midfield, made the first bold move. Their €40 million offer was more than Juventus' structured €37.5 million bid (€25 million plus €12.5 million in potential bonuses). The Gunners' financial muscle was on full display, signalling their ambition to compete for top talent.

Yet, financial incentives couldn't sway Locatelli. The allure of staying in Serie A, the pull of Champions League nights, and the chance to etch his name in the history of one of Italy's most storied clubs – these were the dreams money couldn't buy. Juventus, with a long-term contract until 2026, offered a sense of belonging and a stage befitting his ambitions.

Sassuolo, recognising Locatelli's immense value to the club, sought to balance their own interests with the player's aspirations. While Arsenal's offer held financial benefits, they ultimately respected his desire to join Juventus.

The eventual two-year loan with a mandatory purchase option became a compromise, ensuring a smooth transition while safeguarding Sassuolo's future.

Faced with Locatelli's decision, Arsenal had to react swiftly. While they secured Albert Sambi Lokonga as an alternative, his difficult integration into the Premier League squad (later leading to a loan with Crystal Palace) underscored the unpredictable nature of transfers. It served as a stark reminder that even the most well-laid plans can crumble in the whirlwind of the transfer market.

Manuel Locatelli's move to Juventus stands out as a testament to the enduring power of dreams in football. Sometimes, fulfilling a lifelong ambition outweighs financial gain.

Locatelli's story reminds us that amidst the multi-million-pound contracts and tactical battles, the heart of a player still holds the key to their destiny on the pitch.