Marco Verratti, Paris Saint-Germain
Ligue 1 Show

Marco Verratti: 'Di Maria's an extraordinary player'

Publish on 09/02/2020 at 10:03

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Now in his eighth season with Paris Saint-Germain, Marco Verratti is a cult figure in the French capital, but that doesn't mean he can't reserve special praise for others…

The Italian will play his 200th league game with the eight-time Champions this weekend, which presents the perfect opportunity to look back over his career in Paris - that began when Verratti was just 19.

 

"When I first arrived in Paris, it was something of a shock because I was still used to having fun with my friends in my home town and, then, I left very young for a new experience," he told the Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS. "It wasn't the end of the earth, but it was a long way from my family.

 

"Arriving from a team like Pescara that was playing in the second division, to a club with history that competes for titles, it was a big change! There's a lot of pressure here, you know that the club has invested heavily to recruit you and it's up to you to prove that wasn't a mistake!"

 

Verratti arrived in France at the same time as Thiago Silva, and a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The big Swede scored 156 goals for PSG, helping the club to assert itself as one of the biggest in world football.

 

 

"Ibra was very important in helping Paris Saint-Germain grow, he was a player with a lot of personality," Verratti continued. "He's someone that demands the absolute maximum from himself and those around him, because at the end of the day it's a team sport and to win, you need everyone.

 

I really think he is very intelligent and you can learn so much from him. Of course, you had to understand his character, he could be very direct, but I like that."

 

Quieter, but equally important to PSG's growth, Angel Di Maria arrived in Paris three years after Verratti, much to the Italian's delight.

 

Di Maria, Nantes, PSG

 

"Angel's an extraordinary player, there aren't many players like him, maybe Arjen Robben is comparable to him," explained Verratti. "They're very important players in modern football because one-on-one they're incredible, very generous on the pitch, who provide you with 15 or 20 assists every year, very altruistic and give everything for the team.

 

"We’ve seen it over the years at Paris Saint-Germain, Di Maria's always been extraordinary. I'm very lucky to have spent so much time with him."

 

Verratti has won 22 trophies at PSG, two more and he matches the shirt number he began with.

 

"I first chose the No.24 because there weren't many numbers left and my father was born on the 24th," he said. "It was the only number where there was a link, so I took the 24, and then I took the 6. It was also for Zoumana 'Papus' Camara who wanted me to take his number when he retired and I also liked the No.6, so I've had it for a few years now."

 

The Italian's bite in midfield has made him a real fan favourite. The rarity of his goals has also played its part in developing his cult status. His record reads 199 league games, five goals.

 

 

"I think goals are always nice," Verrati said. "It's always a nice feeling to score. But some goals are nice aesthetically, others are important!"

 

In May 2017, as he celebrated his 200th game for Paris across all competitions, he scored a goal in typical Verratti circumstances.

 

"Blaise Matuidi was on the ground," said Verratti. "That's just me. Strange things always happen to me! I saw Blaise was on the ground, so I shot just like that to put the ball out of play because I knew Blaise was a bit injured, but it wasn't serious, so we kept playing a bit and my shot flew into the top corner, like a fantastic goal, without even really trying, just to stop play and that pretty much sums me up in life and on the pitch."

 

While goals have not come easily, yellow cards have. Verratti has picked up 62 of them, of which one in particular was memorable.


 

"The strangest has to be the pass with my header," he said. "I still don't understood the rule. I could understand if Kevin Trapp had picked the ball up but if I want to do a headed pass, why can't I do a headed pass?

 

"You might think I'm crazy, but I wanted to do a headed pass, so I did a headed pass. No problem. I'm not cheating. I didn't understand, but at that moment, we all learned a new rule: that it was unsportsmanlike behaviour. You're not allowed to do that."