Marco Verratti (Italy)
June 2012. The Quarter Finals of the international football competition focused solely on teams in Europe. Andrea Pirlo steps up and delicately sends a panenka penalty past England’s number one Joe Hart and into the back of the net. Some of the Italian fans in Kiev erupt whilst others breathed a sigh of relief as Andrea Pirlo proved to be their saving grace in arguably the best form of his life. Two years on, there’s no doubting how good Andrea Pirlo still is but questions are now being asked as to whether a man at 35 years of age can still be as influential in the hot, humid conditions of this summers World Cup in Brazil. Although I personally still feel the dead ball specialist and all round fantastic midfielder will have an impressive World Cup campaign, many of the Azzurri faithful have been looking to a new kid on the block and many strongly believe that he, like Andrea Pirlo has done so successfully for many years, can lead from the centre of the park and be a driving force going forward.
No stranger to playing under an enormous deal of pressure for current French Ligue 1 champions Paris St.Germain, 21 year old Marco Verratti is certainly a name I think you will be hearing a lot more of in the future and a player who I think will be a like for like replacement for Andrea Pirlo following his departure from international football. Verratti after establishing himself at Pescara caught the eye of PSG in their big spending summer of 2012 and after making 74 appearances for Pescara before the age of 20 in his 4 seasons at the club, it wasn’t long before the Italian was prized away by moneybags PSG. After an initial 4 year contract was agreed this was later extended by the French giants keeping him at the club till 2018 and shows how highly he is rated by the club.
As for international football, Verratti has progressed through the U19, U20 and U21 national sides and will look to build on this after establishing himself in the first tram Italy squad and scoring his first international goal in February 2013. Admittedly, it will be difficult for Verratti to make the breakthrough in a national side traditionally renowned for opting for experience in the likes of Marchisio, De Rossi and Pirlo himself in recent years. Verratti does however have the age in his favour and with a burst of pace and movement which seem slightly jaded with the elder Italian midfielders, Verratti is both an appealing and exciting option to come off the bench and fully deserves his place in Prandelli’s 23 man squad.