Manchester United transfer target Giovanni Di Lorenzo has risen from Italy’s lower leagues to become integral for Napoli and is expert at passing his way out of tight spots… so would he fit in at Old Trafford?
- Man United have reportedly made contact with Di Lorenzo’s representatives
- Reports in Italy suggest Old Trafford club could move for the Napoli right-back
- Di Lorenzo impressed in his first season with Napoli since moving from Empoli
- The 26-year-old Italy player is versatile enough to play right across the defence
Manchester United have reportedly made contact with the agent of Napoli defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo ahead of a potential move once the summer transfer window opens.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is in the process of rebuilding his United squad as they try and challenge for the Premier League title and other trophies once more.
But what type of a player is Di Lorenzo, what would he offer United and how would he fit into their team? Sportsmail tells you everything you need to know.
Manchester United have enquired about Napoli’s Giovanni Di Lorenzo, according to reports
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United are said to be interested in a summer swoop for the player
What’s the situation?
Italian news outlet Calcio Napoli 24 broke the news this week that United had made enquiries about the availability of Di Lorenzo.
With football completely shut down across Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic, clarity on when transfers will be permitted again, or indeed when or if the current campaign will be completed, are currently in short supply.
But it looks as though United are drawing up a shortlist of potential recruits for whenever the summer window happens.
Where does Di Lorenzo play?
The 26-year-old Italy international is predominantly a right-back and he has made that position his own during what has been a successful first season at Napoli.
However, it’s his versatility across the back line that will appeal to United.
Di Lorenzo (left) has enjoyed a brilliant first campaign at the Stadio San Paolo this season
Di Lorenzo has regularly lined up at centre-back and even occasionally at left-back under managers Carlo Ancelotti and then Gennaro Gattuso during what has been a turbulent season for Napoli.
Indeed his consistently good performances have been a rare bright point in a chaotic Napoli season that has left them a considerable distance off the top four in Serie A and saw the players mutiny against the club’s owner Aurelio De Laurentiis back in the autumn.
What’s his background?
Rather than simply coming through the academy ranks at one of the leading Serie A clubs, Di Lorenzo has served an extensive apprenticeship in Italy’s lower divisions.
Born in the Tuscan town of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, he started playing football for Lucchese in the beautiful historic city of Lucca.
But far from being a defender during his youth, Di Lorenzo was actually a striker and was given the flattering nickname of ‘Batigol’ after Gabriel Batistuta.
The right-back celebrates alongside Dries Mertens after scoring against Torino last month
Di Lorenzo’s career
62 matches, 0 goals, 1 assist
28 matches, 0 goals, 0 assists
70 matches, 4 goals, 6 assists
74 matches, 6 goals, 10 assists
35 matches, 2 goals, 7 assists
2 matches, 0 goals, 1 assist
‘There was a director for the team my brother played for who was a huge Fiorentina fan,’ he explained. ‘I was a striker and scored lots of goals, so he called me Batigol.’
The conversion to a full-back occurred during his teenage years and, aged 16, he joined the academy of Reggina, an erstwhile top-flight club who have slipped down the divisions.
His breakthrough came in Serie B during the 2013-14 season, having spent a season on loan in the third tier at Cuneo for experience.
Reggina would slip to that level themselves so Di Lorenzo made the sideways move to Matera, spending two seasons there.
But his career really started to take off when Serie B club Empoli signed him in 2017.
It proved to be a memorable debut campaign, with Di Lorenzo a stand-out as Empoli won Serie B by remaining unbeaten from the middle of November onwards to finish 13 points clear of Parma.
Di Lorenzo celebrates after scoring for Empoli against his future club Napoli last season
Unfortunately it proved to be a short-lived stint in Serie A, with Empoli relegated in agonising circumstances. They finished in 18th, level on points with Genoa, but were relegated as their head-to-head record with Genoa was one goal inferior.
But Di Lorenzo’s efforts, even in a relegation campaign, did not go unnoticed with Napoli sufficiently impressed to buy him for £7million last summer.
How has he performed at Napoli?
Very well. Di Lorenzo had missed just one match all season in all competitions prior to the shutdown and had chipped in with two goals, including one against Juventus, and seven assists.
Di Lorenzo wins a header ahead of Sampdoria’s Gaston Ramirez during their February fixture
Highlights included the pass for Dries Mertens to fire Napoli into the lead against Liverpool at Anfield in the group stage of the Champions League. They would ultimately draw 1-1.
Di Lorenzo also teed up Fabian Ruiz to score the only goal of the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final against Inter Milan.
This has also led to international recognition, with Di Lorenzo making his first two appearances for Italy in their Euro 2020 qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Armenia in October and November last year.
He earned a first call-up into the Italy squad for Euro 2020 qualifiers back in the autumn
What qualities could he bring United?
His versatility across the back line is obviously a prime asset but when you watch Di Lorenzo in action, the striking thing is how comfortable he looks playing the ball out from tight spaces.
His awareness of everyone around him, on both teams, is impressive and he always seems to pick the right pass, with the scooped ball down the touchline to an open team-mate a favourite.
Longer balls forward down the sides are also often effective which should prove beneficial to United when they counter-attack using speedy players like Daniel James and Marcus Rashford.
Di Lorenzo ends up in the Anfield crowd during Napoli’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool in November
The right-back takes a tumble over Liverpool’s James Milner during the draw at Anfield
His tracking back abilities are well honed but Di Lorenzo also manages to get into good areas inside the opposition penalty box surprisingly often.
His two goals this seasons were both scored from inside the six-yard box, one from a Jose Callejon set piece and the other from a Mertens assist in open play. He’s had 14 efforts from inside the box in all.
So an ability not only to play the ball safely out of defence but also to ghost into scoring positions will come in very handy.
How would he fit in at United?
United fans will be surprised the club are chasing another right-back given how successfully Aaron Wan-Bissaka has acquitted himself in the role.
Indeed, Di Lorenzo is unlikely to take Wan-Bissaka’s right-back spot though he would join Diogo Dalot in offering back-up and competition.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been excellent at right-back for Manchester United this season
Dalot has been largely absent this season after struggling with hip and groin injuries and has played just 65 minutes in the Premier League.
But he could well be utilised as another option in the heart of defence, where Harry Maguire has looked rock solid this season, but those alongside him are often less convincing.
Victor Lindelof has largely played the role this season, with the occasional cameo from Phil Jones or Eric Bailly, but doubts remain over all three so Di Lorenzo could offer an alternative.
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