Locatelli hails 'phenomenon' Di Maria after Juve edge Freiburg
Manuel Locatelli saluted "phenomenon" Angel Di Maria, stating his Juventus team-mate is "in another category" after their narrow win over Freiburg.
Di Maria scored the only goal as the Bianconeri drew first blood in the opening leg of the Europa League last-16 tie, thumping home a header from Filip Kostic's 53rd-minute cross.
Following his hat-trick against Nantes in the previous round, the World Cup winner has now been directly involved in 10 goals in 2023 (scored seven, assisted three).
The 35-year-old revealed he is in talks with Juve over extending his 12-month contract, which expires at the end of the season, and Locatelli hailed his team-mate's influence on the side.
"Angel is a phenomenon, he's in another category, I think he's really a champion," the midfielder said. "For us, it's an honour to have him with us in training and in the game. We have to be thankful that he is here.
"We are only 1-0 up, today was only the first half, we must play a mature game there [in Freiburg next week]. The 1-0 may be enough, but we have to go there and play a great game.
Although they lead, Juventus will feel their advantage should be greater, having converted just one of their 20 shots on goal during the first leg.
Head coach Massimiliano Allegri has urged his players to demonstrate a greater clinical edge, though he also encouraged Dusan Vlahovic to stay patient with the striker now having gone five matches without finding the net.
"We have to improve in the number of goals scored," Allegri said. "We create enough, the [conversion] percentage is low. We need lucidity when we attack the area, we have to improve.
"I'm happy because physically Dusan is much better, he has to be calm. Maybe on Sunday [against Sampdoria], he will score."