Marco Verratti: The Italian Xavi?

Paris Saint-Germain were comfortably eliminated by Barcelona in Tuesday night’s Champions League quarter-final second leg, however, there was one bright light shining in the PSG changing room – Marco Verratti. The Italian midfielder came away with a lot of credit for his performance against the Spanish La Liga leaders.

The Italian international, 22, was singled out for his performance at the Camp Nou, where he completed 99 passes (91% completion ratio), six tackles, three interceptions, five dribbles, and was the most fouled player on the pitch (4). Verratti has earned rave reviews at a young age, and is already being regarded as one of the best deep-lying midfielders in the world.

Following the game, the Italian was being compared to highly-decorated former Spanish international midfielder Xavi, and it is not hard to see why. Both players boast a high level of ball retention and they are very adept at keeping possession under pressure. They control the tempo of the game, and link the midfield with the attack. But both are also hard-working off the ball, and perform defensive duties too.

Barcelona have been linked with Verratti’s signature, and the player even admitted being flattered by the interest, saying: “It would please any player. But PSG believed in me when no-one expected it and I would like to repay that faith.” The youngster is being lined up to replace Xavi, and could well be tempted in 2016 once the transfer ban is lifted.

He has been enjoying domestic success with Paris Saint-Germain since his 2012 move from Italian minnows Pescara. However, PSG have struggled to transform their domestic success onto the European scene. In addition the Parisian side’s squad is getting older and will likely endure a rocky transitional period in the near future. On the other hand, Barcelona are one of the world’s biggest clubs and are steps above PSG in terms of history and prestige.

The Catalans are in the Champions League semi-final this season, and will look to lift the famous European trophy. Anything less than winning is seen as a disappointment for Barcelona and the Spanish side will have to keep improving their squad to remain competitive against the likes of bitter rivals Real Madrid. Once Xavi leaves this summer, there are very few players who can replace the Spanish midfielder yet Verratti might be the best equipped to do so.

His performances against the Catalan giants will have served as further proof of Verratti’s maturity and will be another testament to his qualities. Barcelona are now more certain that he can handle the demands of playing with such world-class players, considering he did not look out of depth in any form or shape when facing the stars of Barca. Verratti is still young, and has more room to grow, yet he is already one of the best in his role.

The Italian international has been described as “unsellable” by his agent, as the Parisians have no intention of letting such a key player leave. However, every player has his price, and Verratti’s flattery at being singled out for praise by Barcelona could perhaps be the hint that he is keen to move to the Spanish giants.

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