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Marco Verratti: Is he finally the Next Pirlo Italy has been searching for?
Club: Paris Saint-Germain (France)
Position: Deep-lying central midfielder
Junior Caps: 3
Senior Caps: 3 (1 goal)
Italy has been searching for the next Andrea Pirlo for the better part of a decade. They may have finally found their man in Marco Verratti.
After leading Pescara to the Serie B title and their first berth in Serie A since the 1992-93 season, the diminutive midfielder attracted interest from Italian champions Juventus—where Pirlo, his idol, plays—but the bianconeri were pipped to his signature by French nouveau riche side Paris Saint-Germain.
PSG fans had waited since 1992-93 for a Ligue 1 title, but with Verratti keying things in the back of the midfield, the Parc des Princes was able to celebrate the club's third championship this season. Verratti's season was productive. He notched four assists and completed 89.2 percent of his passes over the course of the season.
His main problem has been discipline—he garnered 10 yellow cards and a red in the league and another three yellow cards in the Champions League. That issue should iron out. Verratti is only 20 years old and still growing into his body. When he fills out, his tackling should become less awkward.
Due to his high profile as Pirlo's potential successor and the fact that he's held his own in high-level competitions like the Champions League, Verratti has somewhat bypassed the junior level, claiming only three caps with the Azzurrini while taking an equal number with Cesare Prandelli's senior squad.
He has yet to play a competitive game, but in three friendlies he's looked impressive. After debuting as a substitute in August against England, he capably directed the Italian attack as a starter against France before relinquishing the regista position to its current owner for the end phase of the game. In February he bundled a ball over the line in stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw for an Italian team that had been thoroughly outplayed.
Verratti is likely ticketed for the U-21s this year to give him more minutes—he would likely be sitting on the bench at the Confederations Cup. But the young playmaker has shown that he's capable of pulling the strings, and with Andrea Pirlo retiring from international competition after the World Cup the keys to the team's midfield will likely be handed to him sooner rather than later.