There was some speculation in the summer regarding the future of Marco Verratti. Talk was that he might look for a new challenge. One way or the other, the young Italian has an interesting time ahead of him. Shubham Ahuja writes about the conundrum facing Verratti.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that Marco Verratti is merely 22 years old. During his stay at Paris Saint-Germain, the Italian youngster has drawn constant comparisons with none other than Andrea Pirlo, and is widely expected to take over from ‘Il Architetto’ as the chief orchestrator in the Italian midfield.
The diminutive Verratti has a unique skill-set. Blessed with a sharp footballing brain and equally nimble footwork, he usually uses these strengths to weave out of trouble in defensive areas. His ability to find wingers in advanced positions with 50-yard passes is exceptional, but he is equally adept at playing pass-and-move. Even more remarkably, he does his fair share of the dirty work and possesses a mean sliding tackle which can take an opposition player by surprise, given his 5 foot 5 inch frame.
The question that presents itself now is, whether Verratti can realize the potential his early displays boast of. More importantly, what will be the best plan of action for him at this stage of his career? Should he stay at PSG, with a settled club career and a team built around him to help him become the player he wants to be? Or is this the right time to move, gain more international experience or develop into a well-rounded player?
Another year at PSG might suffice
PSG’s project to build a formidable team at domestic and European level has been underway since the purchase of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva in the summer of 2012, and the finished product might well be on display this season. The arrival of Angel di Maria, Benjamin Stambouli and Laywin Kurzawa coupled with the growing influence of Verratti, Pastore and Lucas Moura means the Parisians would like to have a proper crack at the UEFA Champions League this time around.
Verratti’s versatility, in particular, will be key to PSG’s game play. ‘Il Gufetto’ (meaning ‘The Owl’) usually plays in a midfield trio with Motta and Matuidi, but is just as comfortable in a more defensive role in the absence of Motta or when the additional creative impetus of Pastore might be needed.
Moreover, with the presence of pacy wingers such as Lavezzi, Lucas and now di Maria, the vision and long passes of Verratti will be an even more potent weapon for manager Laurent Blanc, who will counting on his young maestro to put in dominant performances similar to the one in the 2-2 away draw against Chelsea in March.
As for Verratti himself, this will be the season where his physical and mental endurance will be tested. After a stellar previous season, there will be an added responsibility on him to carry his team deep into the Champions League apart from defending the crown of French champions. Fulfilling these lofty expectations might just convince Italy manager Antonio Conte that Verratti is ready to take over from Pirlo and become the heartbeat of the Azzurri in the European Championship next summer.
A Future at Juventus (and possibly, Barcelona) beckons
Whichever way PSG’s 2015/16 might pan out, there is a high probability that Marco Verratti may need a new challenge to develop further. Since his arrival in 2012, Verratti has won the Ligue 1 title with the Paris-based team each season and although winning trophies is never undesirable, there are other leagues in Europe which offer more competition and quality and will aid the Italian in raising his game to the next level.
One such league is the Serie A, where the tactical nature of football is highly beneficial for any young and upcoming midfielder (ask Zinedine Zidane, Ricardo Kaka, Paul Pogba). To return to his homeland, Verratti needs to look no further than Juventus.
The Old Lady lost two charismatic midfielders this summer (Pirlo, Vidal) and there is every chance of losing Pogba next year in a possibly-high profile transfer. Buying Verratti’s services in such a scenario is a reasonable investment, especially since he is still young and reasonably priced and may well prove to be the perfect foil to the midfield duo of Marchisio and Khedira.
Herein also lies a chance for Verratti to nail down a position in the Juve midfield and assume the responsibilities of Pirlo at club level, before he attempts to do so with the National team. Playing alongside the likes of Buffon, Marchisio, Chiellini and Bonucci will help smoothen out the process and, all in all, this move seems a godsend for the next stage of Verratti’s career.
Ultimately though, Verratti would be setting his sights on Barcelona, something he came close to admitting during this transfer window-
‘It is up to the people at Barcelona to decide (if I would fit in) but it is true that I like their style.’
The Barcelona management might be looking at Verratti as a long-term successor to Andres Iniesta, who will possibly hang up his boots by the next World Cup. Whether they choose to act now or leave it to a later stage when Verratti is at the peak of his powers, remains to be seen. In any case, unless the Cules discover a midfielder of the same class as Xavi and Iniesta at La Masia, Verratti appears to be the perfect player to continue the tradition of the Blaugrana midfield, which has come to be so revered in modern times.
The possibilities are endless- Verratti himself has admitted that he is open to a move to the Premier League as well. One thing, however, is certain- come the end of the season, the Italian starlet will be re-assessing his options. He has achieved all that he could at Paris Saint-Germain and, barring a Champions League triumph, may move onto pastures new.
Such is the life of a modern developing footballer.
Written by Shubham Ahuja