Scanning Cesare Prandelli’s 42-man squad for the recent Coverciano tests would have led to raised eyebrows at the sight of Federico Bernardeschi’s name. The 20-year-old is seen as a player for the future, similar to two years ago when Italy convened at Coverciano in preparation for Euro 2012 with Marco Verratti in tow.
Bernardeschi is not expected to travel to Brazil, just as Verratti didn’t go to Poland and Ukraine. Yet since a breakthrough 2011-12 campaign at Pescara and Prandelli’s call, Verratti has enjoyed an upward trajectory.
Juventus and Napoli battled for the talented midfielder’s services, but in the end Paris Saint-Germain signed the prodigious then 19-year-old. Verratti was one of the stars in Zdenek Zeman’s championship winning Delfini squad, acting as a deep-lying playmaker. So impressed, PSG offered €12m. He may have skipped Serie A, but Verratti was shot straight into regular Ligue 1 and Champions League action.
Verratti is also viewed as the heir to Andrea Pirlo’s Nazionale throne. The Juve man is set to retire from international football after Brazil and his replacement is seemingly under Prandelli’s nose.
The young regista has been part of the Azzurri setup for two years, but has played just four times. All friendlies. The opponents weren’t slouches, including the likes of England, France, the Netherlands – where he grabbed his maiden goal – and Argentina. But he’s itching to make a greater impact.
So, how integral is he to Prandelli? When Pirlo started on the bench against Spain in March, rather than Verratti, club teammate Thiago Motta was called for action. When Prandelli turned to his substitutes at half-time he summoned Pirlo, but not the rising star. Verratti may be a regular for Laurent Blanc, but he hasn’t been able to fully convince Prandelli – even if the boss has praised the player publicly. Verratti wasn’t able to be selected for Coverciano but in all likelihood would have been.
Verratti’s strength is in possession. He does not shirk from taking responsibility on the ball and can produce moments of magic. Verratti is clean on the ball, enjoying a 92 per cent pass success rate this term in all competitions.
The worry is that he can be too casual and not always aware of his surroundings. When better to clear or pass he can be guilty of taking another touch. Nor is discipline a strong point. Verratti is one of three players to have picked up 10 bookings this term, a League high.
Brazil represents his last chance to learn from the master. If Verratti is to be a key player in a Pirlo-less team, World Cup 2014 presents an opportunity to gain valuable experience from The Architect on a daily basis. He’s battling for a place in what is a packed and talented midfield, with Motta, Riccardo Montolivo and Claudio Marchisio also gunning for a starting spot.
Like others just past their 21st birthday, Verratti is still learning. However, there’s no denying his raw talent and ability which could strengthen Italy in Brail and beyond.