Football truly is a fickle sport. This week’s hero is frequently next week’ villain. Opinions change as frequently as underwear, yet certain things go without question. Messi and Ronaldo are superhuman, there’s certainly no party if there’s no Totti and Marco Verratti is world class. Right? Following another round of 16 elimination from the Champions League, this is where we find ourselves – the new hero turned villain is none other than PSG’s midfield metronome Marco Verratti.
The simple answer to the question of “is Verratti world class?” Of course he is. Surely? He’s received acclaim from both Xavi and Pirlo, who referred to him as the ‘new’ versions of them and they would know best surely. In all honesty, you’d have struggled to find someone who doesn’t consider Verratti to be world class. But is he truly deserving of the moniker?
This happens to be Verratti’s sixth season in Paris, however, just to play devil’s advocate. How many big performances in big moments can one recall Verratti having? How many truly standout performances can one point too? There was last seasons 4-0 drubbing of Barcelona in the Champions League. But then he was non-existent as Barcelona created Champions League history. Can anyone else think of any?
Whether it’s on the international stage or European competition, Marco Verratti once again disappears or disappoints against top opposition.
— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) March 6, 2018
With Neymar M.I.A for the second leg against Real Madrid, the platform was there for Verratti to step up to the plate against a big team. What followed was a performance that at best could be described as ordinary which was then ended prematurely due to the emergence of one of Verratti’s biggest weaknesses, his temperament. That’s now 17 yellow cards and 3 red cards for Verratti in 43 Champions League games. Too often we’ve seen him lose his cool in decisive moments. This could be tolerated at when he was 21 but at 25? Better is expected.
3 – Marco Verratti’s sending off was Paris Saint-Germain’s third red card in the Champions League knockout stage since 2012-13; only Porto and Bayern Munich (4) have received more. Mist. pic.twitter.com/vh2CTBiJKz
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 6, 2018
Verratti was probably still in the locker room showers when the footballing world began questioning his claim to the title of world class. Before the game was over, the most cynical among us began pointing out that Verratti today still possesses the same weaknesses he did when he first joined PSG. As alarming as that may be, there could be some truth to those damnations.
What could be the root cause of this though? How would a player who at the very least is on the cusp of being truly world class still possess flaws in his game that date back six seasons? It’s certainly not talent as he possesses that in abundance. He’s excelled for PSG under Ancelotti, Blanc and now Emery but has he been allowed to skate by? Should more have been demanded of him from his managers over the years? It’s always been noted that the Italian national team has never seen the best of Verratti, but for the most part, that fact has been explained away. Whether we used tactical reasons or injuries, we forgave him for his inability to replicate his PSG form with the Azzurri but maybe that was a mistake on our part.
Verratti could well end the season with a domestic treble. However, with this Champions League flop under his belt plus no World Cup platform to showcase his skills on this summer, this season will end with more than a hint of disappointment for the player. Some soul-searching may be required. Last summer saw him flirt with a move to Barcelona that ultimately didn’t materialise so who knows what this summer may lead to. For now, we can expect months of debate around just how good Marco Verratti is.