While the jury may still be out, where does Marco Verratti’s performances and abilities stack up against the notion of his appointment to be the central figure of a nation that is desperate for success and glory?
Before the questions are asked and the answers are given, in no way is this a slate on Paris Saint-Germain’s star man, Marco Verratti.
On the contrary, what is a concern is that Verratti will be exposed to criticism that is not warranted. It is a guarantee that he is not a “trequartista.” Furthermore, he is not a primary creative outlet within his own club. A secondary/transitional outlet at best, centrally that is, not considering wide players. Verratti is far more of a holding midfielder and a box to box midfielder.
Generations come and go, but reliance on single individuals happen quite too often. Where the debate is still ongoing is the assessment of scouting, in distinguishing of Verratti possesses the ability to match the task at hand.
Throughout the decades of “Gli Azzurri”, the number that has carried the most weight – but may deliver the most glory – will with no doubt be the number 10. From the classic and elegant Gianni Rivera to the internationally successful Giuseppe Dossena, to the unforgettable and charismatic Roberto Baggio, down to the Roman gladiator Francesco Totti. And, now, supposedly to Marco Verratti.
If history is in any way a gateway to the future, a telltale sign that appears is when the number 10 was bestowed on a player that is not a typical trequartista. Looking back on the former number 10s, there is a very distinct pattern.
As of 1994 and on, there have been some highs and lows. 1994, 1998, 2000, 2006 as well as 2012 saw one quarter final, three finals appearances and one victory amongst them. With the likes of Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti, Antonio Cassano and of course Alessandro Del Piero, who may have donned the number 10, but because of injury or the rise of Francesco Totti, was never really an influential figure to the national team. One aspect they all share is the characteristics of being “trequartisti.”
A statistic that needs mentioning are the three assists amassed by Totti throughout the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Only one player had more in the tournament, that being Juan Román Riquelme, who was a trequartista himself. One also cannot forget Totti’s crucial goal against the Australians.
Where things went astray was the appointment of number 10’s in other years; 1996, 2008, 2010 and then again in 2016. Demetrio Albertini, Daniele De Rossi and Thiago Motta all had the unfair assignment of wearing a number that had no reason being there’s to begin with. Holding midfielders and box-to-box midfielders throughout there whole careers, albeit at varying times of there lives. The odd man out is Antonio Di Natale, who in 2010 was given the opportunity. A career spent more as a poacher then as a pure traditional number 10. This might be where Verratti fits in regarding the discussion.
Without forgetting 2002 and 2004, who were, in no doubt, disappointing tournaments for the likes of Totti and Del Piero. But now after all these years, it’s more evident that those frustrations were stepping stones to the timeless moments spent in the summer of 2006.
An honorable mention to 2014, more of a blip on the radar. Possibly because of the disarray and confusion regarding players, roles and tactics.
Getting back to the topic at hand. The nomination of Verratti could be a matter of assignment by default. A better alternative may have been Domenico Berardi, but age, behavior and uncertainty by the coaching staff is stalling the possible idea. Who should have taken the torch and ran with it, was none other than Mario Balotelli. The physicality of a target man, the technique of a trequartista and the prowess of a poacher. But more importantly the mentality of a victim.
If only he were used in a central role as a complete forward with zero defensive responsibility and the support of nine players playing for him. Bright spots have occurred in his career – under those circumstances – but only briefly.
To parallel an interest of many, in poker the saying goes, “you play the hand you are dealt.” So before Berardi makes it big or Balotelli gets his act together, hopefully, but based on history, Verratti will not be the ace up the sleeve, unless help is on its way.