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Messi, Mbappe and Neymar grab headlines but Verratti is the lynchpin making PSG tick

Everyone may be talking about Lionel Messi’s first goal for Paris Saint-Germain during their Champions League clash with Manchester City on Tuesday night. But it was the performance of Marco Verratti that was essential to the team’s success.

Verratti has long been undervalued and overshadowed by big names and this year has been no different. The headlines across the world have been fixated on PSG’s new front three, consisting of Messi, Neymar and French superstar Kylian Mbappe.

But, if you watched this week’s performance at the Parc de Princes you will have witnessed Verratti’s midfield masterclass. He played a vital role in the French side’s 2-0 win over City and it’s safe to say he can’t be ignored anymore. 

Marco Verratti’s contribution was essential to PSG’s success against Man City this week

Verratti’s performance even captured the heart of Pep Guardiola – who confessed he ‘loved’ the playmaker after the game. The Manchester City manager also referred to Verratti as ‘exceptional’ and explained how PSG could ‘count on him’ for their ‘build-up play’. 

He said: ‘I’m in love. He’s an exceptional player. When he’s under pressure he can play the extra pass. I know about his character, his personality. I’m happy that he’s back from injury. You can always count on him for build-up play. In the first half, we were a bit soft with him.’ 

Ashley Young went one further and urged the red half of Manchester, his old club United, to sign the 28-year-old.

‘The Michael Carrick type has been missing for years. They haven’t gone out and replaced Michael Carrick,’ Young – now at Aston Villa – told BBC Radio Five Live

‘Don’t get me wrong – Fred and McTominay are good players but I don’t think there’s a Michael Carrick around.

‘I was watching the PSG v City game yesterday and I think Marco Verratti is the closest one and nobody’s gone out to test the water to try to sign him. I think he would be an unbelievable signing for Manchester United.’

However, everyone is currently talking about Lionel Messi's first goal for Paris Saint-Germain

 However, everyone is currently talking about Lionel Messi’s first goal for Paris Saint-Germain

Messi raced through the City defence, laid-off for Kylian Mbappe before hitting the top corner

Messi raced through the City defence, laid-off for Kylian Mbappe before hitting the top corner

Meanwhile, French news outlet L’Equipe said that Verratti demonstrated ‘dazzling creativity’ and credited him with ‘sickening the Mancunians’ with his performance.   

They wrote: ‘He is one of the best pressure raisers on the planet. He is a player with dazzling creativity.

‘Without playing since August 29 (due to a knee injury), the Italian, was completely correct in his positioning and in his ability to press the ball carries. 

‘He sickened the Mancunians. He almost scored at the end and received a standing ovation from the crowd.’

Therefore, it is clear to see that Verratti has become one of the most important players of PSG’s trophy-laden era after signing for the club in 2012. During his time in Paris he has also established himself as one of Europe’s greatest midfielders.

Having come from humble beginnings, Verratti helped guide Italian side Pescara to the top flight for the first time in two decades when he started his professional career. He then turned down the opportunity to join AC Milan to stay loyal to his boyhood club.

Nevertheless, the deep-lying playmaker eventually parted ways with the Italian side after gaining the attention of Paris Saint-Germain. However, his arrival at the Parc de Princes was somewhat overshadowed by the announcement that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was joining the club on the same day.

Verratti registered a 93 per cent passing accuracy compared to Messi¿s 89 per cent

Verratti registered a 93 per cent passing accuracy compared to Messi’s 89 per cent  

Meanwhile, Neymar registered 82 per cent and French star registered Mbappes 78 per cent

Meanwhile, Neymar registered 82 per cent and French star registered Mbappes 78 per cent

It’s no surprise the signing of a 19-year-old midfielder for £8.6million fell by the way-side when the club had invested in Argentina forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, Brazil centre back Thiago Silva and Sweden striker Ibrahimovic during the same transfer window.

However, the youngster – who had been compared to Andrea Pirlo by his former PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti – did nothing but prove his worth after making his competitive debut for the French side in an away Ligue 1 match against Lille.

Verratti is not often one for turning heads when on the pitch, but he has become part of the PSG furniture. He has also established himself as one of the best midfielders in the game thanks to his performances for the French side.  

His ability to distribute the ball and unlock his opponents’ defence in the process has made him into an under-rated superstar. The Italian international is capable of passing off both feet and can thread the ball through the smallest of spaces to set him team-mates off on an exciting attack. 

Verratti has been subsequently described as ‘the best passer of a footballer since Xavi’. The former Barcelona maestro even praised the PSG player himself – saying: ‘There are very few midfielders better than Verratti.’

He doubled Messi's number of attempted dribbles during the Champions League group game

He doubled Messi’s number of attempted dribbles during the Champions League group game

Verratti also registered a 83 per cent success rate compared to Messi's mere 33 per cent

Verratti also registered a 83 per cent success rate compared to Messi’s mere 33 per cent

In the 2018-2019 season, Verratti registered a passing accuracy of 91 per cent. He was also involved in 1.21 goals per game and would make 0.2 assists. 

The midfielder also completed an average of 1.77 dribbles every 90 minutes and made 4.71 tackles per game. 

Verratti’s performance against Manchester City on Tuesday night proved to be another indicator of his dominance in midfield. Verratti registered a 93 per cent passing accuracy compared to Messi’s 89 per cent, Neymar’s 82 per cent and Mbappe’s 78 per cent.

Verratti also out-performed Messi in terms of his ball carry. He doubled Messi’s number of attempted dribbles and registered an 83 per cent success rate compared to Messi’s mere 33 per cent.  

Verratti’s offensive record during Tuesday’s Champions League clash is enough to warrant his title as one of the best midfielders in the world, but his defensive record simply adds to his credentials. 

However, he has been undervalued and overshadowed by big names such as Ibrahimovic

However, he has been undervalued and overshadowed by big names such as Ibrahimovic

The Italian playmaker completed more interceptions than Messi, Neymar and Mbappe combined despite playing 12 minutes less than his counterparts.

Such statistics draw a direct comparison to his domestic game. During both the 2019-2020 and the 2021-2022 season so far, Verratti has maintained his passing accuracy. As it stands, he accurately completes 82 per cent of his passes – compared to Messi’s 63 per cent, Neymar’s 52 per cent and Mbappe’s 46 per cent.

He also makes 3.2 tackles per 90 minutes with Paris Saint-Germain… compared to Messi’s 0.6, Neymar’s 0.97 and Mbappe’s 0.29. 

So what’s the catch? Well, there isn’t one in particular. The only downside to Verratti’s game comes from his height. Standing at just 5ft 5in he struggles to win his aerial battles. 

Although, the arrival of Messi (who also stands at 5ft 5in) proves that you don’t have to be the tallest player to have the biggest impact on the pitch – did you not see the Argentine’s screamer against Manchester City on Tuesday night? 

Now he has been overshadowed by PSG's new front line of Messi, Mbappe and Neymar

Now he has been overshadowed by PSG’s new front line of Messi, Mbappe and Neymar

Ashley Young has now urged his old side Manchester United to break the bank for Verratti

Ashley Young has now urged his old side Manchester United to break the bank for Verratti

The difference is, players such as Messi have developed a name for themselves. He is universally referred to as the GOAT. He goes head-to-head with Cristiano Ronaldo in record breaking battles and fans bicker over which one of them should be named as the best footballer to grace the earth. 

Meanwhile, Mbappe became the most expensive player in the sport at just 18 years old after joining the French side from Monaco in the summer of 2017. The following year he played a starring role in France’s World Cup success. Since then he has gone on to establish himself as one of football’s elite players and has drawn comparisons to both Messi and Ronaldo. 

Additionally, Neymar has been one of the most talked-about footballers of this generation. Messi even referred to him as ‘one of the best in the world’ when speaking about the Brazilian’s departure from Barcelona. 

Therefore, it is hard for Verratti’s true value to be recognised amid the noise surrounding his team-mates. But, these players wouldn’t be the stars they are today without Verratti’s constant supply of world class balls – and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a Premier League side break the bank for him very soon.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk