Italy midfielder Marco Verratti can one day fill the void left by Andrea Pirlo, according to former international Ciro Ferrara.
Verratti, 23, has made 15 appearances for the national team and is sure to play an important role for Antonio Conte’s team at Euro 2016 in June and July.
Pirlo, a 116-time international, is still part of the Italy setup after reversing his decision to retire following the 2014 World Cup.
Ferrara believes Verratti, now at Paris Saint-Germain, is capable of producing for Italy – just as Pirlo has done for over a decade.
“He left Italy, which is something that often happens with the best players from the Italian league,” Ferrera told Omnisport.
“He left to join an important league, but not as important as maybe the English, Spanish or even the German one.
“We let him go too easily and we are talking about the only player in my opinion who can someday aspire to replace Andrea Pirlo, one of the most important players in Italy’s recent history.
“Verratti is a player of great personality, small but at the same time mean. Again he has a big personality, but he didn’t obtain it now, he had it already five or six years ago.”
Ferrera, who represented Italy 49 times and coached the under-21s, said the pair were different players.
The 48-year-old feels Verratti will feature in a more advanced role than deep-sitting Pirlo, but said they are both reliable in possession.
“Even back then [in 2010-12] Marco showed all his naturalness when handling the ball and showed fantastic vision on the pitch,” Ferrera said.
“But Verratti was already coming from a great season with Pescara, where he did great things. It’s important to mention that he started as a trequartista and then he was switched to more of a playmaker role.
“Even though sometimes he might force his plays a bit, if you give him the ball a good 99 per cent of the times it’s as safe as it can be.”