Wednesday June 6 2012
The next…Verratti

A change of position has only increased the expectancy on Pescara’s young talent Marco Verratti, as Rob Paton profiles. 

Marco Verratti has been known in Italian football for a few years now, since making his debut for Pescara’s first team as a fresh-faced 16-year-old. Yet, few could have predicted a rise to the fore this soon or this prominent would have come just three-and-a-half years on. A leading role in Pescara’s promotion campaign, brought about in part by a notable positional switch on the pitch under Coach Zdenek Zeman, has seen the boy rewarded with an Italy Under-21 debut, a first senior national call-up, a hike in his market valuation and a number of transfer links to Serie A sides, all in the space of a few months.

What is notable to the boy’s recent return to the attention of some of Serie A’s biggest names, however, is that it is now in a completely different position to that which he was first attracting bids for.

Wearing the No 10 on his back gives the best clue as to the original position he was nurtured in Pescara’s youth team for. Based behind the strikers, Verratti was expected to move into the senior level as a trequartista, for his technique on the ball, close comfort in dribbling and his ability to set up teammates with ease.

Indeed, playing behind a single striker in a 4-4-1-1 at youth level earned a mid-teens Verratti a trial and transfer offer from Milan. His decision to turn that down out of a fear of homesickness didn’t dispel their interest or that rumoured to be from Juventus and Inter, nor did it quell his development. By the age of 16 he had already debuted for Pescara’s first team despite his slight frame and perhaps in part because of that 5ft5 slender appearance as much as his position, he was commonly known as ‘the Biancazzurro Giovinco’.

Yet, with experience of also having played in other positions in his youth, from regista to second striker, it was never a certainty that he would take the No 10 role to match his shirt number. Indeed, 2010-11’s Pescara Coach Eusebio Di Francesco says he always felt he most resembled a style of player similar to David Pizarro, whilst 2011-12’s Coach Zeman took a similar view so as to accommodate the player in his trademark 4-3-3. Looking to Verratti’s range of passing and his surprising comfort in providing defensive cover, Zeman worked with the youngster on developing his positional sense in a deep, central-midfield role, akin to Andrea Pirlo’s at Juventus.

It’s not a style of footballer that Zeman and his preferred tactics have always accommodated into midfield in the past, but such has been Verratti’s development, temperament and improvement in his work both on and off the ball, the relationship between Coach and midfielder is seen as a key ingredient to the club’s Serie B championship success. It has also shifted comparisons away from Giovinco and towards the likes of Gigi Di Biagio, who had a similar role in Zeman’s famous Foggia side two decades ago, Pirlo and even Gianni Rivera.

In his role in the heart of the Delfini’s midfield, the Italian has showcased his ability to spot passes blind to others, to pick out players with diagonal balls over the shoulder of opposition full-backs and to always have an extra yard of space, even in the most crowded area of the pitch.

Next season will see him step up to Serie A football for the first time. Still young and still, as he acknowledges himself, with room for improvement on certain aspects of play, 2012-13 will be a test of how fair such comparisons really are and how ready he is for the jump in quality.

However, the fact that Italy included him in their provisional Euro 2012 squad and that more than one top-flight side has been rumoured to be interested in him this summer indicates that, regardless, Serie A believes he is ready.

Have your say...
Juve ahould secure his signature and loan him out immediately for a season.
on the 10th June, 2012 at 2:42am
If this clammer to keep him at Pescara is for fear
Of him rotting on a bench like Giovinco, then fair enough. But Italias best young players should be given playing time at the big clubs. We are worried about our defender at the moment and look what happened to Santon. A couple of bad games and suddenly your out. Pressure from the FIGC and fans alike should be put on clubs to play talented young Italians.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 8:12am
He looks very much like Christian Vieri.
on the 6th June, 2012 at 7:09pm
he should certainly stay at pescara or roma under zeman where he can play regularly and hopefully he will go juventus next to create the next era of talented midfielders for italy together with giandonato and marrone and pogba.
on the 6th June, 2012 at 5:51pm
I saw him play in a recent u21 game, and he was great. He dribbles well and holds up the ball like pirlo, and he can do some amazing passes. I hope he stays at Pescara for now. He can be a starter a gain more experience. I would hate to see him as a sub at juve the whole season.
on the 6th June, 2012 at 2:40pm
He should stay at Pescara this year, move to an improving mid-table club for a couple years of development, establishing his ability, playing in Euro competitions etc. Then transfer to a big CL contending club when he is ready. Too many youths rush to a big club, get loaned out to a wrong club and suffer. Signing for Inter or Juve, to get loaned to Pescara is the same as staying with Pescara. By not signing he will have more options when his contract expires, or when he decides what he wants
on the 6th June, 2012 at 2:39pm
Let him mature where he is...unless he goes to someone who will play him week in week out....Roma would be a good move for him since his old coach is there and he would see more playing time.
on the 6th June, 2012 at 1:18pm
He is a good talent and in my opinion he should stay at Pescara in order to mature more in the serie A level.A move to a club such as Juve could be a mistake right now cause he wont be granted with first team football,on the other hand a co-own transfer would be ideal for him.
on the 6th June, 2012 at 8:53am

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