Monaco-PSG D-1: Verratti indispensable
PSG midfielder Marco Verratti may be just 21, but he's already on the fast track for success. With the crunch clash away to title rivals Monaco looming on Sunday, some key PSG figures gave their thoughts on the Italian prodigy.
At the age of just 18, the Italian quit Pescara, a Serie B [D2] side, for PSG. When Verratti arrived in Paris in 2012, he was already on the fringes of the national team, but in France he was a virtual unknown.
Makelele: 'Something special'
"I didn't know too much about him when he joined," midfield legend and PSG assistant coach Claude Makelele told The Ligue 1 Show on BeIN Sport. "But right from the first training session, I could see he had something special. I think he can become one of the best in the world."
Blessed with superb technique, balance and vision, Verratti has become a key part of PSG's midfield, his tenacity and impressive passing range proving a perfect foil for the energetic Blaise Matuidi and the experienced Thiago Motta.
"He's very young but has so much talent; he's good at keeping the ball and passing, especially together with Thiago Motta," observed Netherlands international right-back Gregory van der Wiel. "They are really good in midfield, they switch the game from left to right and sometimes long to Ibra [Zlatan Ibrahimovic]. He's developing really well this season and I think he's a big asset to the team. I think he can even become a bigger and better player."
Zlatan: 'When you have a Verratti in your team...'
"When you have a Verratti in your team, it gives everyone confidence for the way we're playing and especially the way they are playing, him and Thiago Motta," declared Ibrahimovic. "I have never seen a connection like this between two players in the midfield."
"We have a very good midfield with Marco who possesses one of the best techniques in the world," said PSG's other Italy midfielder, Thiago Motta. "I've already said everything there is to say about Marco, he's a great player. I love the way he sees football because he shares the same vision of the game as me."
A teenage Verratti started 23 games last season - his first in French football - winning over the Parc des Princes with his audacity, and occasionally infuriating his former coach Carlo Ancelotti by taking unnecessary risks. However this term, under Laurent Blanc, Verratti has added consistency to his game - although that desire to entertain remains.
"I don't think anyone should try and change him," Makelele said. "His innocence is a quality as well. If we change his playing style, he won't be as good. You have to let him mature, he's learning all the time and he'll get wiser. The way he plays, he's the ideal modern-day central midfielder and will become one of the best in the world."
Belying his years
"Marco is not only a great friend and a teammate, but he's a great player, and he plays with a lot more experience than his age would suggest. For me, it's a great privilege to play together at Paris Saint-Germain," declared superstar Brazil defender Thigo Silva. "Marco, if you see this, I'm not saying it because I'm Thiago Silva and I'm your captain, but I'd like to stress what a great player you are and how important you are for the team, I hope that you can keep improving and one day fulfil your dreams, so I send you a big kiss and wish you all the best!"