Ed.note: Less than a month away from the January transfer window, we sit here idly, dreaming of not having to sit here idly twelve months from now and instead being involved in the Champions League, which is conducting its final matchday of the group stage this midweek. One player who also may be looking forward to new challenges is PSG’s Marco Verratti, whose agent was recently making some noise along such lines. While Verratti is probably nowhere near a realistic transfer target at this point either in the winter or even in the summer (4+ years left on his contract, for example), he’s certainly someone who could help take Chelsea to the next level.
Marco has the ability to affect both ends of the pitch, with accurate passing from deep or creative passing near the box. He possesses close control befitting a defensive outlet or an attacking midfielder, and has silky skills to move past players anywhere on the pitch.
There is a strong defensive element to his game including intelligent positioning and a tough tackling approach, which both earns him regular bookings and endears him to the fans.
Modern family connection
The Italian midfielder has previously worked with Conte at national level and has received compliments from the coach who clearly recognises his talent.
He’s a player with a lot of personality, and today the national team cannot afford to wait anymore: Marco has to become a leader, which we need. I believe Verratti is a player with great prospects in the future. It’s important that he keeps demonstrating this desire and passion. When I watch him play, it shows that he does so with pleasure. Technically, he’s already very good but he still must progress in various respects.”
-Antonio Conte, Feb 2016; source: Canal Plus via Italian Football Daily
Current Italy boss Giampiero Ventura echoed those sentiments just a few days ago, but also put the pressure on to find a more challenging league.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again; Verratti is absolutely a good thing for Italy. The problem is that he doesn't play in Italy, but in France. The rhythms are different; the strength of his team is so high that he never gets put in difficulty. He must get used to putting 100 percent into matches."
-Giampiero Ventura; source Sky Italia via ESPN
Verratti has lavished plenty of praise on Conte before as well.
“I believe Conte is the best Coach I have ever worked with.”
“He is a tactician who really focuses on the details and knows absolutely everything about his opponents. This is why it takes a little while to really understand what he’s asking of us. Having Conte as Coach is a big advantage for all of us in the Italy squad.”
-Marco Verratti, Oct 2015; source: Sky Italia via Football Italia
Conte is clear about re-establishing the family spirit at the club and Verratti would certainly fit the bill just in that sense.
Squad role and Price
At age 24, with already great ability and still further potential, Marco won’t come cheap from Paris, but something the lines of £40-50m transfer fee could be within Chelsea’s range — even more so if/when midfielders like Fàbregas or Oscar or Mikel are no longer applicable on the bottom line of the wage bill.
Verratti is essentially a younger, more balanced version of Cesc Fàbregas. They are similarly brilliant with their passing and reading of the game, however, Verratti’s defensive ability is superior. If Cesc wishes to transfer from Chelsea or Conte does not wish to include him in the squad, Verratti should be the first player to target on the transfer shortlist.