Sunday December 27 2015
Verratti gives his version

Marco Verratti discussed the Scudetto race, Antonio Conte, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Carlo Ancelotti, Euro 2016 and what went wrong in Brazil.

The midfielder is still only 23, but shot to fame at Zdenek Zeman’s Pescara with Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, moving to Paris Saint-Germain without ever playing a Serie A game.

“There are regrets that I never got to play in Serie A, but you never can say what will happen in the future,” Verratti told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“It’s also true that in Italy clubs don’t get the best out of young players. All they have to do is get two games wrong and they are thrown out.

“Considering the way Fiorentina play, I’d say I am most suited to them in Serie A. Along with Napoli they play the best football. The Viola are a revelation.

“I see a Scudetto battle between Juventus and Napoli, while Gonzalo Higuain will be Capocannoniere. He may well be the best player in the League.”

Verratti was also asked to give his personal awards for 2015.

“Considering what he did over the year, I’d give Coach of the Year to Max Allegri. Aside from Higuain, the best foreign player would be Paulo Dybala, as it wasn’t easy to start so well at Juve.

“The best young player I’ve ever seen is Adrien Rabiot and it’s unlikely PSG will let him go. In Italy Alessio Romagnoli and Federico Bernardeschi are great, but I give the award to Insigne, even if he’s not that young any more.

“I don’t know what happened with Conte in the Nazionale, but his creativity could be the revelation for Italy at Euro 2016.”

The Azzurri will face Belgium, the Republic of Ireland and PSG teammate Ibrahimovic’s Sweden.

“The day of the draw, Zlatan sent a text message that read: ‘I’ll destroy you.’ I already told him to relax, Sweden will come third in the group, but can comfortably go through as one of the top runners-up.

“I’d watch out for France at Euro 2016. We might meet them in the Final and beat them again as we did in the 2006 World Cup…”

There are reports Conte could leave the Azzurri bench after the tournament.

“I think he’s more likely to go if we do well, because he is a winner and wants to leave on a positive note. What went wrong at the 2014 World Cup is that we weren’t a united group. There weren’t enough rules and we took that lack of discipline on to the field, because after beating England we assumed that we were already qualified.

“The old guard wasn’t to blame, they were hungrier than anyone else. Now Conte is more hard-line and won’t ease up on anyone, no matter their status. He’s not worried about being liked by players or journalists. He gave back the rules we had lost. He is the Coach we need to climb back up.”

Mario Balotelli was accused of causing friction in the squad in Brazil.

“Mario has the potential to be the best Italian striker and one of the best in the world. He has everything it takes. There’s still time to climb back up, but he has to understand many teams are bored of waiting for him.

“I hope Andrea Pirlo is at Euro 2016. Like Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti, he’s the only one who can give us that extra quality we need. We can play together, even if it’s Conte asks for very different things to Laurent Blanc.

“I’d love Ancelotti as the Italy Coach and I already asked him about it, but he said it’s too early. I wished him all the best for his adventure at Bayern Munich. He’s like a second father to me.

“Do you know what he said to me ahead of my PSG debut? We were in the elevator and he suddenly came out with this. ‘Today I’ll make the biggest mistake of my life: I’m putting you on the field.’

“I didn’t know him well at the time and wasn’t sure how to take that… He’s truly great. I just hope to work with him again one day.”

Verratti is about to sign a contract extension with Paris Saint-Germain until 2021.

“In football terms, I feel more French than Italian now. In 2012 PSG wanted the best players in the world and instead they chose me. I won’t forget that. To think at the start I didn’t want to leave Italy when Pescara were going into Serie A, but I realised some chances pass by once in a lifetime.”