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Chelsea 'keen on' Conte-favorite Paris Saint-Germain midfielder

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Finally, the Marco Verratti rumors are here, with the Mirror linking the Blues to the 24-year-old as the replacement for the departing duo of Mikel (highly probable) and Fàbregas (not as highly probable).  There's no mention of whether this would be a winter or summer transfer, though the latter seems like a more reasonable timeframe.

Surprised it took over a month for Chelsea to be linked with the PSG midfielder after his agent dropped one of those classic agent lines on the Parisians' head back at the start of October.

"We are obviously pleased with the confidence that PSG firmly believe in Marco. His deal now runs until 2021, but the contracts are made and unmade in three minutes. We'll see PSG's aims, Marco is happy to be there, but he wants to win something important. He can not stay in a team that does not win."

"It's a matter of motivation. Occasionally, you have to try new adventures, not now, because we hope to stay as long as possible, but will come a day when it will face this discussion."

-Donato Di Campli; source: So Foot via Metro

Having lost both Zlatan and David Luiz in the summer, PSG find themselves just third in the French league after 12 rounds (LOL), though obviously Verratti's agent is referring to some other competition, one that currently does not feature Chelsea.

But Chelsea do feature Verratti's former coach at national team level, and one who's clearly a big fan of the tenacious little ankle-biter.  Here is the then future-coach of Chelsea talking about Verratti's national team prospects in March of this year.

"Marco is a player with important potential, he must continue with the same desire and passion. You can see that he lives for football with passion. He has already excelled technically, he's also developed physically and has great personality. But Italy can't wait, Italy needs Marco to be a leader right away."

-Antonio Conte; source: Canal Plus via Football Italia

Unfortunately for Conte, Verratti had to miss Euro 2016 with injury, which is something he struggled with for much of last season.  But now he appears to be healthy, and also possibly looking for a new challenge.

That said, this is hardly the first time exit rumors have swirled around Verratti.  Just a year after he joined PSG from Pescara, there were stories of him wanting out and we debated the merits of a possible Chelsea pursuit as well.  Graham was not exactly high on Verratti's virtues at the time — all aboard the Josh McEachran hype train! — but in the three years since, Verratti has added plenty of physicality and plenty of annoying-ness to his game, to go with his already tremendous vision and passing abilities.  We know first hand after all, having faced him in the Champions League knockout rounds for three straight season.  Verratti himself has talked about using both Cesc Fàbregas and Claude Makélélé as his inspirations and guides for how he wanted to develop as a midfielder.

Verratti is a classic love-hate player (love him as teammate; hate him as an opponent), which does make him a desirable transfer target.  His price would no doubt be quite a lot and it would be anything but easy to wrest him from PSG's grasps (especially with 4+ years left on his contract), but where there is a will, sometimes, there is a way.