With Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti revealing his desire to leave the club this summer, while Barcelona have confirmed interest in the Italian midfielder, it seems the Catalans are finally replacing Xavi for a title tilt and shot at the Champions League next season.
Barcelona have struggled in the transfer market in recent windows but look to have found a high-quality player in Verratti, one of the best deep-lying playmakers in the world. So is he ready to fill big shoes at the Camp Nou?
One of the best passers in Europe
Barcelona are interested in Verratti due to his abilities on the ball. The Italian international is a risk-taker in possession and has total trust in himself. He won’t hesitate to play out of the back regardless of being pressured by the opposition and his composure in possession leads to a number of attacks being started.
Verratti’s patience and intelligence is exactly what Barcelona need to rejuvenate for a title tilt next season. Under former Luis Enrique, their build-up play became sloppy, predictable and direct, often resorting to picking out their three world-class forwards and asking for individual brilliance.
Barcelona were at their best under Pep Guardiola when Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta were constantly involved in the build-up play and retaining possession. Now the Spaniards look a shadow of themselves with players brought in who aren’t capable of replicating the brilliance of the aforementioned trio.
Provides defensive protection
But in Verratti, Barcelona will come close. He’s not just a good passer, he’s also diligent in his defensive duties and will dominate the central areas due to his industry. The Italian maestro averages a tackle or interception every 19 minutes in Ligue 1 last season, often times giving away fouls but always breaking up the play and halting the opposition’s momentum.
He’s best deployed alongside a defensive-minded midfielder given his penchant to harry players around the pitch, leading to him being out-of-position at times, but his pros outweigh the cons. If Barcelona want one of the best deep-lying playmaker in the world, they will have to stump up a lot of money to sign him. Perhaps only Real Madrid can boast a better player in the role and they would never do business with Barcelona.
Can bring the ball into attacking areas from deep
And while Verratti keeps the ball and is combative, he’s also expert at driving from deep, in a fashion similar to Iniesta. The latter was fantastic at beating a number of players and starting an attack from positions that seemed impossible. Verratti does the same and it’s a joy to watch at PSG.
His fearlessness to collect the ball as much as possible sometimes means he has to be creative to ensure his opponent doesn’t pinch the ball of him. The Italian’s close control and low centre of gravity means he shields the ball brilliantly and has no qualms dribbling out of trouble.
Barcelona arguably can’t sign a better player for the role this summer.
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