Why Barcelona chief Joan Laporta rejected Manuel Locatelli transfer amid Arsenal interest

Arsenal: First fixtures of 2021/22 Premier League season

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Barcelona president Joan Laporta claimed Manuel Locatelli was ‘not a big enough name’ to sign earlier this summer, according to reports. Laporta was re-appointed Barca president earlier this year after the departure of Josep Maria Bartomeu. However, he may have already made a major transfer mistake.

Sassuolo star Locatelli has made a name for himself during Italy’s Euro 2020 campaign.

The midfielder has scored two goals in Italy’s run to the semi-final, where they will play Spain on Tuesday.

Juventus and Arsenal are interested in signing the 23-year-old, who has a price tag of around £34.2milion (€40m).

But Barca could have perhaps signed him on a cheaper deal before his international exploits.

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Speaking on Reach PLC’s Transfer Window podcast, Duncan Castles says Laporta did not think the signing of Locatelli was high profile enough when he was recommended the midfielder.

Castles said: “Interesting story about Locatelli is I can tell you he was recommended to Barcelona’s incoming president when asking for midfielders, recommendations for midfielders to sign this summer to improve their squad.

“Laporta’s response when Locatelli was recommended was: ‘Well, he’s not a big enough name, he’s not playing for a big enough club, I can’t do a deal like that, it’s got to be something with more box office appeal’.

“I think unfortunately if he’d taken that advice he could have secured a deal for a significantly lower sum than will eventually be paid for Locatelli, had he gone in quickly and done it before these European Championship performances.”

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Last week, Sassuolo chief Giovanni Carnevali claimed Arsenal had made a bid for Locatelli – a claim the Gunners have rejected.

“Arsenal have made an official bid for Locatelli,” Carnevali told Sky Italia.

“They’re pushing hard to sign Manuel and it’s an important bid… we will see.

“Juventus also want Locatelli and we have a special relationship with them. A new meeting has been scheduled with Juve.”

Speaking last month, Locatelli said he was fully focused on playing for Italy amid speculation over his future.

“When you’re involved in such an important competition, you’re only focused on the task in hand,” Locatelli said in June.

“We see the kids in the street when we travel to our games waving flags, so it’s quite easy to stay focused on the match.

“I’m focused on what happens on the pitch because that’s what is real. Everything else is just gossip and there’s no point worrying about it.”

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