Paris Saint Germain is set to return to official action this week after a lengthy layoff caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, and as the big-spending club begins its pursuit of a trio of available trophies, Marco Verratti is poised to play a key role in that chase for silverware.
The Italian central midfielder was in the midst of another outstanding season for PSG before the cancellation of the Ligue 1 season, but the French champions resume play this week with the Coupe de France final on Friday and Verratti should be a key to Thomas Tuchel’s plans.
The Italian national team midfielder has come a long way from his humble beginnings as a young standout with Serie B side Pescara. When PSG spent 10 million Euros on him in 2012, few expected Verratti to have a significant impact right away. He was just coming off his breakout season with Pescara, leading the Delfini back into the top flight for the first time in 19 years.
Verratti's transition into French football was a seamless one despite his inexperience and quickly established himself as a key member of PSG's setup.
Paris Saint-Germain has dominated French football since the turn of the decade, winning seven of the last eight league titles. Having conquered all there is domestically, the Parisians have now shifted their focus on becoming a European giant. Currently, Gian Piero Gasperini's high-flying Atalanta stand in their way in the Champions League quarterfinals with the two sides set to lock horns in three weeks' time.
PSG's star-studded frontline featuring the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar may earn the plaudits, but it's Verratti that pulls the strings in the middle of the park to supply them. The Italian international is at his best deployed directly in front of the back four and exudes confidence with the ball at his feet.
Verratti rarely panics in possession and is constantly scanning the pitch for an open teammate. Despite his small frame, the diminutive midfielder is as tenacious as they come in the middle of the park, regularly diving into tackles. In this sense, Verratti is the prototypical modern midfielder, combining an impressive passing range with a keen sense of positioning.
Verratti initially came through Pescara's youth ranks, breaking onto the scene under Zdenek Zeman in 2011. The midfielder supplied the Delfini's high-powered frontline, connecting wonderfully with Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne. Pescara won automatic promotion to Italy's top flight in 2012, netting 90 goals on the season.
Verratti later received the 2012 Bravo Award for his exploits as the best player under the age of 21 in Europe, prompting interest from Italy's top clubs including Juventus, Napoli and Milan. In the end, however, Carlo Ancelotti successfully lured him abroad, offering him a key role with PSG. Verratti wasted no time making an impact in France, dominating the proceedings in the middle of the park.
Verratti has since lived up to expectations with the capital-based club winning 23 trophies over the last eight years but is yet to lead the French giants to European glory. PSG have struggled to translate their domestic dominance to the European stage in recent times, failing to make it past the quarterfinals of the Champions League in its last seven attempts.
PSG’s upcoming clash with Atalanta presents them with a unique opportunity to take the next step in becoming a European giant. With Verratti pulling the strings at the heart of midfield, PSG is primed for a deep run as the French champions seek to overcome their European blues once and for all.