Verratti and PSG's match officials have hardly been seeing eye-to-eye this season
Paris Saint-Germain may have eased to a 2-0 win over Rennes on Saturday, a result worthy of celebration for Carlo Ancelotti’s side as a first Ligue 1 title in 19 years edges closer. The Italian’s players resisted a continental hangover with a strong second-half performance; however, the afternoon was not positive for every member of the PSG side.
Marco Verratti, benched in favour of David Beckham on Tuesday against Barcelona but in the starting line up in Brittany, was substituted at halftime after a first 45 minutes that encapsulated the infuriating nature of the 20-year-old.
A player brimming with potential, but massively flawed due to his his short temper, is threatening to cut the speed of his own rapid development by refusing to temper his breakneck approach to matches. That attitude, whilst refreshing in some circumstances, was potentially detrimental in a crucial clash at Rennes on Saturday.
Therefore, Ancelotti acted fast and substituted him at halftime before he lost his cool after 45 minutes that saw him pick up his 10th yellow card of the league season.
Added to that, Verratti’s performance was percolated by instances of his other major flaw that needs to be remedied. The Italian was caught on numerous occasions dawdling on the ball, holding onto it for far too long and playing his side into danger. Too often the youngster will make a decision and then change his mind, regularly losing possession as he gets closed down in the time it takes for him to make a decision.
Against Rennes it almost cost the team twice, against a team that have only scored four times in their last seven games and are without a win since February. But against Barcelona, a team that prey upon indecision by their opposition and dominate possession—something no team likes to cede cheaply to the Spaniards—it could prove lethal.
Now you can start to see where Ancelotti was coming from favouring Beckham over Verratti on Tuesday, and likely doing so once again next week.
With the Englishman already confirmed as a starter at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, the diminutive Italian’s performance and early exit should provide a harsh, but necessary, lesson going into the future.
PSG are already working on an improved contract for Verratti despite his dip in performances, demonstrating their faith in the youngster long term. However, the Azzurri international should take heed from Saturday’s experience in Brittany.
He needs to learn to channel his anger and aggression into positive performances if he is to realise the awesome potential that he has shown glimpses of this season. A petulant kick of the ball at goal after he had carried it over the by-line in trying to create a chance also demonstrated his relative lack of maturity.
That, however, is natural for a player who is only playing a second full season of first-team football and making his debut in top-flight competition. Ironing out the finer points of your game at 20 years old is a favourable position to be in, and shows how far ahead of the curve Verratti is when compared with other similar European talents.
This season has given PSG and their fans a taste of what is to come from their No. 24, but his early season form may have encouraged many to expect too much, too soon from the youngster. Instead, a more mature Verratti is likely to emerge next season with his first full campaign under his belt.
There is no doubting that the Italian already has the capability to play ahead of the likes of Beckham on talent as well as physical merit, but experience is not something that can be generated in an instant. Verratti tends to get over-coddled by PSG and is often exempt from criticism when it is fully deserved.
Constructive criticism from Ancelotti after yesterday’s showing would not hurt Verratti, and it will likely make him a better player. Without his coach taking him aside and emphasising the importance of composure in football at the highest level, the Italian will continue to look like a bull in a china shop.
Carletto was right to brand Verratti "naïve" earlier in the season when it appeared that the youngster had allowed himself to become overconfident and complacent. That observation still rings true to some extent today. But with the right words from his coach, the Italian international will emerge a better player for the criticism.