Assured Marco Verratti still has much to learn


One of the less nail-baiting transfer sagas of the summer came to a welcome close on Sunday night when Marco Verratti’s agent, Donati di Campli, confirmed on his Twitter account that the Italian midfielder had finally agreed a new deal with Paris Saint-Germain after weeks of wrangling.

Di Campli deserved the opportunity to give himself this digital pat on the back, authored a leap in his client’s take-home salary from €850,000 (£734,000) to an estimated €2m (£1.73m), in exchange for tying himself to the French champions until 2018. He put in the hard yards trumpeting the interest of Europe’s cream, including – apparently – Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United, before reporting the arrival of a “monstrous” offer from Napoli on his desk.

Given that the 20-year-old hadn’t played a minute of top-flight football in his career this time 12 months ago, this pay bump is a tribute not only to his own performances in his debut season in the capital, but to di Campli’s relentless attempts to put PSG on the spot in recent weeks.

Yet all through this, Verratti himself showed very little inclination to move, even after the departure of Carlo Ancelotti. In fact, the pair had clashed on occasion – more of which later. Verratti can be impetuous, but he is not stupid. He knows that after just one very promising season at PSG, he is not ready to rule the roost in the midfield for another of Europe’s giants – not yet anyway.

Verratti has plenty of respect from his vaunted PSG teammates. Right at the start of the last campaign, Zlatan Ibrahimovic named him among the “top-class players” that made the club’s sporting direction a “great project” – basing his assessment simply on Verratti’s confident displays in training, as it was made before the season’s official start. 

It’s understandable; Verratti’s swagger and style is instantly bewitching. He had already been lumbered with the onerous epithet of the ‘new Pirlo’ by then, but his range of passing was – and is – breathtaking. He completed a higher proportion of passes than any of his teammates in 2012/13, an especially impressive achievement when one considers the amount of long passes he attempts.

Yet he is by no means the finished article. The normally circumspect Ancelotti gave Verratti a furious dressing-down in full public view on the touchline after he was sent off at Evian in late April. Having usurped Marseille’s Mathieu Valbuena as Ligue 1’s shortest player on his arrival, Verratti quickly made it clear that he would not be bullied, and his combative nature frequently got the better of him.

So did his pride. A keen dribbler deep in his own half, Verratti frequently exasperated Ancelotti with his failure to move the ball more quickly. In fact, just days after the coach publically reminded the prodigy of this imperative in November, Verratti’s casual pass in his own third led to teammate Mamadou Sakho’s early red card at Montpellier for a professional foul. Verratti is great to watch, but it is hard to imagine him being thanked for dribbling across his own penalty area at Old Trafford, had he gone there.

When we’re all on tenterhooks waiting for our club’s next signing some news, any news, a bit of hope is important, whatever the reality in terms of suitability or realism. The lexicon of the transfer window is full of generalisations and superlatives, and here is another example. More power to Verratti and di Campli for squeezing an extra few euros out of the situation.

Read more from Andy Brassell on Unibet.