Sunday June 29 2014
Let the Verratti era begin

Thanks to Marco Verratti, Sam Lewis writes that life after Andrea Pirlo isn’t so scary.

There are very few players from Cesare Prandelli’s Italy squad that improved their value, financially or otherwise, in Brazil. For the most part, the Azzurri’s trip to South America was hugely disappointing regardless of how much you believe Claudio Marchisio’s dismissal against Uruguay affected proceedings.

However, out of the dark cloud and chaos currently surrounding the FIGC in the midst of a World Cup post-mortem, there a few shafts of light. One of them is Torino full-back Matteo Darmian, who impressed many with his calm performances, and the other is Marco Verratti.

Touted as the “the new Andrea Pirlo” the moment his name was thrust into the peninsula’s collective consciousness, Verratti earned fame with Zdenek Zeman’s entertaining Pescara side in 2012, lining up with now Azzurri teammates Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile.

Despite the number ‘10’ on his back during his time with the Delfini, it was deeper in midfield where the youngster shined - finding teammates with regularity and picking apart helpless Serie B opponents.

Just 12 months later, fresh from a season where he earned a starting role next to Thiago Motta for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1, Verratti was the conductor for Italy’s U-21 team, picking apart an England side containing future World Cup opponent Jordan Henderson as the Azzurri ran out 1-0 winners.

Another year on from that and Verratti had the chance to do the same thing, this time as a teammate of the man he had been compared to for the better part of his career. Alongside Marchisio, Verratti acted as Pirlo’s go-to guy when the veteran was dogged by opposition defenders, allowing the Azzurri to maintain possession without an over-reliance on the Juventus veteran.

In a trend that directly opposes Italy’s own World Cup journey, Verratti actually got better as the competition progressed, and was arguably the Azzurri’s best midfielder in their final group game against Uruguay.

The 21-year-old was dropped in favour of the more defensive Thiago Motta against Costa Rica and against Uruguay displayed why that was a bad decision. Emanating cool and poise with every touch, he even had the audacity to show a few flicks on the edge of Italy’s box in the first half.

It’s the composure that indicates the comparisons with the similarly unfazed Pirlo are more than an example of lazy punditry, but Verratti possesses an extra facet of agility and an a tendency to weave away from tacklers that his older teammate has perhaps lost as time has worn on. It’s an example of modern football – Pirlo a vintage wine while Verratti is more of a spritzer, bubbling with tenacity that can occasionally overflow onto the pitch.

Despite Pirlo’s decision to make himself available should the next Azzurri Coach decide to call the World Cup winner, Verratti has ensured that when the day comes that Pirlo won’t answer the phone, his successor will be waiting on the next line. 

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Have your say...
"Had we played CR in the evening that could have made a difference."

Excuses. Enough with the temperature 'conditions' - Just STOP! No other team uses this as a excuse. Did you see the Dutch in 40 degrees the other day?? did you see how USA and Port ended in Manaus? Or better yet, the effort of USA and bel in 120 min in salvador - very similar conditions as Recife. Yes, ITA played all 3 in the north, but they couldn't muster even 10 min of energy in their last two. spare me
on the 2nd July, 2014 at 5:57pm
The future of Italy is nothing but bleak. This has nothing to do with Verratti who is a genuinely promising player, but more with the wrong prevailing football mentality in Italy. When Prandelli took over, it was supposed to bring a new era of football, yet for the best part of his reign CP kept Verratti as a benchwarmer. He kept calling average at best players who will never be quality footballers. And the same is likely to happen with the new Boss and the names mentioned so far really do not inspire any hope.
on the 1st July, 2014 at 11:05am
@ Aussie Bob then you'll have to explain how he's won titles in Spain, Italy and France and the champions league. As much as I don't much rate him he's clearly not rubbish. What he offers is solid passing in midfield and defensive cover. I probably would've taken him to the World Cup given our lack defensive options in midfield but wouldn't have been devastated if we had been left out. What his percentages show is de Rossi and pirlo must have really had a shocker v CR if we lost the ball so much
on the 1st July, 2014 at 7:50am
We didnt have a manager with the balls to pick the right squad for Brazil and the right team for the group games. Leaving out Giuseppe Rossi was a big mistake, instead we bring on Cassano. Players like GIACCERINI AND DIAMANTE WHERE THERE WHEN we where at the euros and the confederations cup. So he leaves them at home. To play like we did against COSTA RICA AND URUGUAY, WAS A MESS TACTICALLY AND AS A TEAM THAT LACKED DIGNITY AND RESPECT
on the 1st July, 2014 at 7:38am
Agree with Aussie bob. The moment Motta came in vs Uruguay I got a bad feeling, which was right. He's looked bad in every game, the friendly vs Ireland and vs Costa Rica. He had a negativity which seemed to affect the whole team, not that other mf were any positive except pirlo who at least tried. I think he will retire for the teams good for the future.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 11:35pm
much of your thesis is accurate but for you to suggest that Varretti “showed nothing “as a replacement for Pirlo is ideological at best. The young man stepped into a role that is not familiar to his club team, yet displayed maturity, integrity, and mobility. Perhaps you would like to elaborate on your defective thesis??
on the 30th June, 2014 at 10:41pm
Gary, much of your thesis is accurate but for you to suggest that Varretti “showed nothing “as a replacement for Pirlo is ideological at best. The young man stepped into a role that is not familiar to his club team, yet displayed maturity, integrity, and mobility. Perhaps you would like to elaborate on your defective thesis??
on the 30th June, 2014 at 9:49pm
@ Maldini, Mottas 96.3% completed passes is a false stat. If I played the last 15 minutes & walk around with my shorts rolled up receiving the ball then always passing it back all the time I would get a 100% completed passes. The guy creates nothing & is so boring to watch. Motta should never step foot on Italian soil again. What the hell was going through Prandellis mind we will never know.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 9:38pm
Gary, much of your thesis is accurate but for you to suggest that Varretti “showed nothing “as a replacement for Pirlo is ideological at best. The young man stepped into a role that is not familiar to his club team, yet displayed maturity, integrity, and mobility. Perhaps you would like to elaborate on your defective thesis??
on the 30th June, 2014 at 8:59pm
Luca Cigarini is the closest thing to Andrea Pirlo and he should be his immediate replacement. Check the stats they prove it. He created 68 scoring chances 3rd most in Serie A this year and the most for a central midfielder, and his pass percentage has been in the top 3 in Serie A the last 3 years. He is a traditional old school italian midfielder and was a victim of the prandelli's tactics because he prefers attacking midfielders he changed are whole philosophy of the game, and got us nowhere.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 8:18pm
Solid article. I agree 105%. Marco is a truly humble young man. He said leading up to the world cup, if he was not called he would accept the decision and it would motivate him to work harder. This is the makings of a young champion. Like it or not, PSG is filled with great players and Verratti is learning how to be a true top level player from the likes of Ibra and co. I believe pressure will not affect a player like him as it would Balotelli and others.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 7:29pm
Verratti showed nothing to suggest he can replace Pirlo. The current crisis in Italian football is a direct result of years of Italian clubs looking to buy on the cheap and not bringing through young players. Take away 2006 and the national team is barely averaging 1 win per tournament since Euro 2000.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 5:55pm
What Italy now needs is Sacchi as FIGC president, Zeman as Coach, Baggio at the helm of the technical and youth department, a Serie A with 16 teams where Playoffs and Playouts follow the regular season and ... a Verratti-centric Squadra Azzurra. Hence a team full of players which are as fast with their feet as he is with his immagination. 4-3-3; Scuffet; Darmian-DeRossi-Chiellini-DeSciglio; Candreva-Verratti-Poli; Destro-Rossi-Berardi. The strikers changing positions continously.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 4:16pm
No doubt about it. Verratti, Sirigu and Damian were the best we had. I would let go of Buffon, Pirlo and Cassano. I would only bring in who is playing well for their clubs and that they are on form (alla Sacchi). The new CT must not tinker like CP did. He just couldn't help himself. There are some young midfielders in Atalanta that are excellent. Marrone is another to consider. We do have the quality. Lets give the youngster a go even if we do not qualify for the Euros. It's time to move forward
on the 30th June, 2014 at 4:13pm
EURO 2014 lineup

Darmian-Ogbonna-Bonucci-De Sciglio
on the 30th June, 2014 at 4:09pm
@ Anonymous Thiago Motta (another unpopular oriundo) had the highest pass completion rate of any of our players at 96.3% (in fact he's made it into top 20 of all players at the tournament!). I know I was shocked too! I'll say it again. We shouldn't blame individual players for this disaster. The new manager needs all options available to him.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 3:54pm
it is ridiculous to say that Verratti will not grow and develop at a club like PSG. Perhaps he should stay in Serie A and end up a wasted talent like cigarini, astori, ranocchia, acerbi, and aquilani, to name a few. The best thing for young Italian players nowadays is to go and play abroad, so they can learn and get used to the MODERN game, which is not being taught or played in Italy. Until Serie A can fix all of its corruptions and problems, it will never be the same league it once was.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 3:33pm
...because the Serie A clubs are so broke and so in debt that they need to sell all their star players and cant keep them... Ibra, Thiago Silva, Cavani, Pastore, Sirigu and Lavezzi are all cases in point. Former Serie A players now on PSG because their clubs could not refuse the big money offers. With world class players listed above, its absolutely PREPOSTEROUS to say that PSG has washed up players. Considering Verratti was probably Italia's best player at the 2014 World Cup,
on the 30th June, 2014 at 3:28pm
@aussie bob
Great come back!!! Well said. Exceptional infact
on the 30th June, 2014 at 3:25pm
For those of you who say he will never improve because he plays on Paris Saint-Germain, you guys must be living under a rock. The Serie A is a joke nowadays, Paris Saint-Germain made it farther in the Champions League than ANY Italian team has last year, and for the past 2 years was just minutes away from progressing to the semi-finals. Its ridiculous to say that players go to PSG when they are "washed up", especially considering the amount of former Serie A players they have...
on the 30th June, 2014 at 3:25pm
Verratti will never be a Pirlo, if he keeps playing in France. Isn't Paris Saint-Jermaine were you go when your washed up. Come to Serie A, you belong there. Come before its to late.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 1:36pm
I hope this is the last time Thiago Motta gets called up. I did not rate his performance at all.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 1:21pm
Jorginho for me, he has all the making of a great player. Equal that of Verratti if not a bit more simply because he has Benitez and is still playing in Serie A(a more difficult league than ligue 1) Indeed all the young talent rely on good managers to help them further develop. I for one am glad Zemen is back in Serie A and Bernadeschi going to Cagliari would be a great move for him to grow
on the 30th June, 2014 at 12:54pm
There's a very fine line between success and failure sometimes.

If Marchisio hadn't decided to stamp on a player we would have played Colombia.Had Montilivio not broken his leg he would have made a difference.If Rossi had not got injured he could have made a big difference.
Had we played Costa Rica in the evening that could have made a difference.

If world cup failure means an overhaul of Italian football then I welcome failure however zilch happened after 2010 and zilch will happen again.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 12:13pm
@ eric star fury I wouldn't quite say its time for De Rossi to call it a day. However judging by the little senatori lead coup a new manager will need to have the right mix of man management skills and discipline. I can see Mancini falling out with a lot of players. Allegri seems to get respect from players. Capello could really put his foot down. Whoever is in charge needs to take control. Were there any attempted coups after what was even a worse debacle in 2010?
on the 30th June, 2014 at 11:53am
@ Carlo R I agree. We do have a decent crop of youth players. As I mentioned the U21s got to the final of the Euros not so long ago. Those calling for the inclusion of Cigarini, Bonaventura and Florenzi before the World Cup probably had a point. However like you say lets not panic and throw out the whole squad. Each player has to look at themselves and take responsibility but we also need to move on.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 11:50am
As some of you are saying the young players mentioned here are not tested yet I agree, but we do have 4 years to the next WC & lets hope the next 4 years are not wasted as they were with CP. PS - I have to apologize with Maldini's Heir comparing Suarez with Balo, I forgot to say.... one is an overpaid idiot who score goals, the other is an overpaid idiot who doesn't.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 11:47am
@ tino baggio Excellent point. We can already see the expectations and the pressure starting to mount. These young players need to be able to play, to make mistakes and to learn. We shouldn't be putting too much pressure on him or comparing him with the greats. Personally I'd like Pirlo to continue just to keep the pressure off him.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 11:44am
I think it is time anyway for de rossi to call it a day for the azzurri he looked well off the pace which is pretty typical for a 30 year old dmf generally this is the age they start tailing off in terms of pace.

As for inclusions for me g rossi el shaarawy florenzi bonaventura jorginho santon astori
on the 30th June, 2014 at 11:17am play at this level and play consistently for their sides (bar this injury and Seedorf hit season for De Sciglio at Milan)
I feel people just say these names and haven't watched them play/not play this season. And haven't thought about how they will play with Italy.
Rebuilding is necessary, but not complete revolution.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 10:56am

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