After a one-year delay, Euro 2020 gets underway tonight as Italy face Turkey in the tournament’s opening game.
For Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu, it provides a chance to do a little scouting as two players linked with summer moves to the Emirates Stadium could be in action.
With Arsenal hoping to sign up to five players this summer, performances at the Euros could go a long way to convincing Arteta and Edu whether to pursue certain deals or look elsewhere.
Of the many positions the Gunners are looking to strengthen in, central midfield appears to be the main priority.
This is no surprise as Arsenal are looking a little light in the engine room.
Dani Ceballos has returned to Real Madrid after two successive loan spells, Granit Xhaka is on his way to AS Roma, while Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira are expected to move on this summer.
That would leave Thomas Partey, Joe Willock and Mohamed Elneny as the three first-team central midfielders for next season. Hardly enough quality and depth to push for a top-six finish.
Hence links to the likes of Ruben Neves, Yves Bissouma and Sander Berge.
Although, it’s a player whom Arsenal have scouted for five years that could be the answer to their midfield problems.
Manuel Locatelli, who currently plays in Italy for Sassuolo, was earmarked as a target back in 2016 when he was at the tender age of just 18-years-old whilst on the books of AC Milan.
Now 23 years of age with more experience under his belt, Locatelli has revealed that he believes he is ready to make the step up to a “top club,” as well as refusing to rule out the prospect of moving abroad.
“I feel ready for a top club and also joining a foreign club is a potential option for me, why not?” he told CorSport last month. “When there are opportunities, I will think about my future.”
Speaking ahead of the Euro 2020 opener, Locatelli revealed when a decision regarding his future will be made.
“It’s just talk. I will decide after the European Championship,” he said, as per Football Italia. “There’s such an important competition to play in, and I’m only focused on this.
“I rely on what happens on the pitch, the real things, everything else is just gossip, it’s useless to talk about it.”
Standing in Locatelli’s way of inspiring the Azzurri to victory is a potential future Arsenal teammate in Turkey defender Zeki Celik.
The right-back has been touted as a replacement for Hector Bellerin and is going into the tournament on a high after helping Lille beat Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title this season.
Arsenal have done business with Lille in each of the last two summer transfer windows – signing Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Magalhaes – so could a good showing from Celik make it a hat-trick?
The summer window is officially open, and it’s going to be tough to keep up with the comings and goings in and out of the Emirates.
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Opening games at major tournaments can sometimes be cagey and dull affairs for the neutral, but with a couple of reported transfer targets possibly on show, Turkey vs Italy is a clash that could be of great interest to Arsenal.
Amid talk that Celik could be available for £13m and Locatelli’s estimated transfer value set between €30m-€40m (£25m-£34m), as per the CIES Football Observatory, there’s a chance that Arteta and Edu can complete a £38m scouting mission tonight.
Considering its two players that could bolster two key positions in the squad, it would be worth making most of the opportunity.