Marco Verratti has been plagued by injury this season, only making 23 appearances thus far in all competitions. He struggled with a calf muscle strain for a couple of weeks in the Fall, and pubalgia has prevented him from playing almost all of 2016. Yet, while he has played, his quality has shown through as the midfield maestro, completing nearly 94% of his passes. He made 5 appearances in the qualifying stage with the last against Azerbaijan last October. He is expected to be fully fit again by the start of the tournament, and his abilities could very well lead Italy to the Final.
Verratti plays on the right side of the Paris midfield in Ligue 1. His elusive dribbling and crafty flicks make him both one of the most entertaining and effective midfielders in France. In PSG’s system, he is vital to the movement of the ball and he is always looking to get on the ball. He often drifts from the right side to a more central position and to the left side, which makes him difficult to fully cover. Occasionally, his youth shows as he will dribble his way out of heavy pressure right outside his own box instead of clearing the ball. However, he almost always breaks the press and is able to launch counterattacks that usually end up with Zlatan Ibrahimović finding the back of the net. His relentless work ethic makes him an incredible tackler of the ball, as evident against Barcelona in the Champions League 2014/2015 when he dispossessed Lionel Messi.
One of the most unique aspects of Verratti is his ball retention. He plays with maturity and grace reminiscent of Busquets, as he can keep possession flowing during incredibly high pressure. He evades tackles seemingly effortlessly. He positions his body perfectly to get out of pressure and make sure the opposing player cannot get to the ball without going through him first. Furthermore, his flicks, backheels, and fake passes make him unpredictable and difficult to defend. In another Champions League game against Barcelona last year, he weaves his way through the midfield, embarrassing Messi and Suarez in the process.
His maturity can also be seen in his positional play, especially when the other team has possession. His ability to close down passing lanes and force opponents into tough situations makes him standout amongst the top young midfielders in Europe. When on the ball, his awareness of what is on the field and where is incredible. For instance, against Lille he receives possession facing his won net, quickly turns, and then dribbles up the field and open up the game.
Verratti’s positional awareness is crucial and a valuable playmaking tool for his team. His sense of teammate positioning is at the topmost level as he commonly makes seemingly-blind passes with great accuracy.
Another component of his playing style is his high passing range and ability. Both PSG and Italy use direct balls from build-up quite regularly as an alternative to their usually-short passing game. Verity can pick out runs in behind from forwards as well as runs from outside backs into wide areas to catch the defense off guard. His textbook long ball is a lofted pass over the top that consistently finds the feet of the central forward. Additionally, his short, quick passes are deadly in the midfield and take opponents out of the game. His diverse ability to play long balls and cutting passes through the midfield will make him a menace this summer.
Verratti’s toughest international test will come against Belgium; however, Belgium is a side of several fantastic midfielders that lacks chemistry. If Verratti can get on the ball consistently, he can dismantle the Belgium side. Against the Rep. of Ireland and Sweden, Italy should have no trouble dominating the midfield and expect Verratti to be key in their orchestrating of the game.
By Kuber Madhok and Trung Can
How to cite this page: “Euro 2016 Players to Watch: Marco Verratti”, written by Kuber Madhok and Trung Can (2016). Introduction to Euro 2016, Players to Watch, European Cup 2016 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/tournament-guides/european-cup-2016-guide/euro-2016-players-to-watch/euro-2016-player…h-marco-verratti/(accessed on (date)).
“M. Verratti.” Us.soccerway. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. <http://us.soccerway.com/players/marco-verratti/93388/>.
“Marco Verratti.” Whoscored. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. <https://www.whoscored.com/Players/91961/Show/Marco-Verratti>.