Marco Veratti has impressed since moving to Paris this summer, and has recently been linked with a move to Arsenal. Here's all you need to know about the talented Italian...
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marco Verratti. These are the four recruits arrived in Paris last summer who are now regular starters in Carlo Ancelotti’s eleven. Among them are three confirmed international stars coming from major European clubs and an unknown young man coming from Italia’s Serie B. Nevertheless if you were in France right now, you wouldn’t find a fan or even a journalist discussing his presence on the field at kick off time. Not even if you consider that high credentials players like Thiago Motta or Momo Sissoko, normally playing at the same holding midfielder position, are currently sitting on the bench.
Marco Verratti was born 20 years ago in Pescara, a couple of hundred kilometres east of Roma, on the Adriatic shore. In this quiet area, the young Marco grew up within his local club’s youth programme. The Delfino Pescara 1936 spent the last 30 years switching between the 3 first Italian divisions. When Verratti began playing for the flagship team in 2009, it was in Lega Pro 1 (3rd tier). Following promotion, Marco then spent 2 seasons as a regular starter for the club in Serie B.
If he started his career as an advanced playmaker, he was moved down the blackboard by Zdenek Zeman who saw in him all the qualities required to be a brilliant holding midfielder. A season and 31 games later, leading his club to promotion, the coach was proven right. The teenager had made his reputation all around the country. So well that despite having played no game at all in the Italian top tier, he only narrowly missed on being called for the Euros by Cesare Prandelli.
Obviously, all the Italian big clubs from Milan, Turin and Roma were fighting for his signature. Verratti would not join any of these cities, though. Unfortunately for Serie A, money talks, and instead, he signed for the most Italian club you can find today outside the borders of the peninsula.
Since the Qataris bought the club and named former local glory Leonardo as the sporting manager, Paris-Saint-Germain has an habit of doing its shopping in the Italian league. But this tendency is also insisting on buying accomplished footballers whose reputation was already done (Ancelotti, Thiago Motta, Sissoko, followed by Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Lavezzi, all of them within eight months). To this extent, the purchase of Marco Verratti was against the grain; a more prudent signing with one eye on the future.
Following a high profile media presentation, Verratti was immediately included in the starting line up for the first day of the French league. This was mainly due to the absence of a few players involved in the Euro 2012. Verratti didn’t think about missing out on action for the Azzurri; he seized the opportunity to impress the coach, the mass medias and the fans. His pace, his fighting spirit, his ball protection and his passing accuracy rapidly forcing many observers to dare make a comparison with Italian legend Andrea Pirlo.
The dream summer ended for Verratti with a first cap for the Nazionale against England, and the discovery of Champions League football. A few weeks into the job and the €12m spent on someone who was only known previously as a lower league teenager seemed very worthy.
As always in football, fame never comes without envy from the European big guns. If Paris wants to join this private elite club quickly, they have to admit they are nowhere near it yet. And the young and ambitious Marco may not be willing to wait a few years for international glory. His profile, the one of an old school number 6, would be of interest for many in the Premier League.
Two clubs in complete reconstruction are seemingly in favour of breaking their saving account to enrol a player who could be their midfield talisman for the next ten or fifteen years. Chelsea and Arsenal are announced in the race for signing him. On top of convincing the player, both boards would have to reach an agreement with the Qatari owners settled in Paris. They would probably be facing a heavy tag price, knowing that his value has been rocketing skywards for the past few months. From a surprise €12m sum four months ago, we can without doubt consider that a new transfer for the wonder kid would need at least twice this amount to be laid on the table.
This kind of money would not scare the hell out of Arsenal's accountant; they are in healthy financial position. What remains certain is that Marco Verratti would be a stunning addition to already rich troops as the “new Pirlo” doesn’t seem to slow down his progress. And who knows, maybe he will still be rated amongst football’s best players in 2025, when he will reach Andrea Pirlo’s current age.