Name: Marco Verratti
Club: Paris St Germain
International Caps: 6
Position: Centre midfield
English fans will doubtless be more excited to see the likes of Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley grace the world stage when England square up against Italy tonight. But Arsenal fans, in particular, should keep a watchful eye out for the five-foot-five Italian who could be buzzing around energetically alongside the great Andrea Pirlo in the Italian engine room.
Rumours have circulated that Arsene Wenger sees PSG’s Marco Verratti as a like-for-like replacement for the ageing Mikel Arteta. On occasions this season, signs emerged suggesting the effects of being the wrong side of 30 may just be taking their toll on Arteta, and Verratti could provide that mix of tactical and technical nous that has been central to the Spaniard’s role in the Arsenal side in his three years at the Emirates.
Verratti is seen as Pirlo’s natural successor in the heart of the Italian midfield. At his best, he can dictate the pace of the game in a similar fashion to Pirlo, pulling strings in front of the back four and distributing the ball to all areas of the field. And despite his diminutive stature, Verratti possesses a nasty streak, and is fully prepared to get stuck in for the sake of his side, no matter how big or intimidating the opponent.
The fact that he has secured a starting role in one of Europe’s best sides at such a young age demonstrates a maturity beyond his tender age. And while his game still lacks the grace and poise of Pirlo’s – he has a willingness to take unnecessary risks in front of his own goal – he is malleable. While risk-taking is an essential part of the excitement Verratti gives, he is at an age where faults are commonplace, and creases can still be ironed out.
When Arsenal do come to replace Arteta in their starting line-up, it will likely be for a player of Verratti’s style. His ability to control the tempo of the game, whilst providing a tenacious and effective screen in front of, would make him an ideal replacement in the Arsenal side. Suggestions are that Verratti is worth in the region of £20 million, and Wenger is keen. Arsenal fans should be too.