Marco Verratti has been a revelation for Paris Saint-Germain this season, particularly in the first half of it when he exploded onto the scene to play a bigger role than expected after his summer arrival from Pescara in Italy’s Serie B.
In the mould of Andrea Pirlo, the now-Italian international struck up an immediate rapport with French international Blaise Matuidi in the PSG midfield. Lying deep and very close to the defence, his early performances were astonishing for a player who had only played one full season of first-team football before leaving his native Italy.
Since then, his consistency has slipped a little, which is to be expected of a 20-year-old, and he is still experiencing teething problems.
It does not alter the fact though that this season has been a breakout year for the Italian prodigy, and a highly unexpected one at that. His talent was not in question with a host of clubs vying for his signature before PSG managed to lure him to France, but the decision to leave Italy so early was.
The Azzurri have since benefited from his move and they now have a ready-made replacement for Pirlo when the evergreen playmaker hangs up his boots. In the meantime, though, Verratti needs to perfect his still raw style of play and in particular stamp out his unruly temper which has seen him amass a host of yellow cards this season.
He's been linked with a move away, and Manchester United (via Daily Express) is a name that has recently been thrown into the mix. AC Milan and Juventus have been mentioned too. However, the young Italian needs to concentrate on improving his game in Paris before moving on to one of these massive clubs.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti branded the diminutive midfielder “naïve” earlier in the year and suggested that he needed to be more patient while developing his game.
That still rings true, with a number of his shortcomings being exposed on a regular basis. But as far as first seasons go, Verratti’s has been hugely promising and the interest from other European clubs is not surprising.
What sort of player would Manchester United be getting if they did sign him then?
With Paul Scholes unlikely to last too much longer at Old Trafford, Verratti could be an almost perfect replacement.
His passing could potentially be on a par with Scholes’ once he reaches maturity, and the two share a number of similarities in how they operate.
Both are tenacious and technically gifted but neither are particularly fast players. Crucially both of them are one step ahead of the game in their minds though. Scholes has perfected this brilliant foresight over time, and Verratti will have the opportunity to harness his awesome potential soon enough.
Where the Italian might be of highest value is in front of the defence. Having a midfielder capable of mucking in and retrieving the ball, similar to how Owen Hargreaves functioned before his terrible spell of injuries, would benefit United’s other creative midfield talents.
Verratti excels in that role thanks to his stocky build. The youngster’s presence could lead to more freedom for the likes of Tom Cleverly and Michael Carrick, but also an alternative method of service for United’s potent strike force. His tendency to be overzealous in the challenge is a cause for concern, but no more than it is with Scholes.
The Italian is a metronomic presence and even if he has not yet taken control of this PSG team, it is easy to see that he is a midfielder who will dictate play along with the best in the not too distant future. Perhaps a season learning from Scholes himself would prepare Verratti for the rigours of replacing the 38-year-old.
From a PSG perspective though, it would be foolish to let him leave.
On this season’s form, Verratti has a very bright future in the game and his partnership with Matuidi in the midfield is vital to how Ancelotti’s side play. The Italian’s ability to play in the deep-lying role his manager regards so highly has saved Javier Pastore from being forced into a more withdrawn role and limiting his already fleeting contributions further.
Verratti is developing into an important player internationally and domestically and right now he needs to continue developing where he is. PSG is the right place for him to fully develop his talent, it remains to be seen if it is the place for him to be to deliver upon it.
It would be a risky move for the youngster to leave the capital club at this time if he cannot guarantee that he will start regularly in Manchester. That said, he would be a coup for the Red Devils if they could snap him up.