Being a football fan can produce some ‘holy crap’ moments, most of them are great. I had one of those the other week. Holy crap, Marco Verratti is almost 25. A few days later, the Italian went down with an injury as PSG thrashed Bordeaux 6-2. The finer details of the injury aren’t out yet, but he did withdraw from the Italy squad. This could be a short term injury, yet again it could be another lengthy spell out for a player who never seems to be fit for Italy.
The 24 year old’s injury record at PSG hasn’t been as bad as some people make out. The Italian has only had one league campaign held back by injury, 2015/16, where he played a little over 1000 league minutes. Other campaigns have been held back by niggling injuries, such as 2013/14, where he played under 2000 league minutes.
By comparison, Luka Modric’s top three league minute tallies are 2651, 2629 and 2189 compared to Verratti’s 2460, 2158 and 1996. Whilst the Croatian’s tallies are better than the Italian’s, it shows Verratti isn’t the man of glass some people make him out to be.
However, when it comes to internationals, it’s a different story. By the time he (forbidding an injury) features in a major international tournament, Marco Verratti will be 25 and just a few months away from 26. What’s most sad about this is that injuries affecting your international career are all about bad timing.
In 2012, the midfielder didn’t make the final cut for the EUROS, in 2014 he managed 133 minutes as Cesare Prandelli preferred Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio ahead of him.
The EUROs last summer were set up as a stage for Verratti to shine on. He was coming off an injury plagued league season with PSG but he was finally going to star in an international tournament. Except when in early May it was announced he’d be undergoing groin surgery and would miss the tournament.
The Azzurri last summer were crafted to Antonio Conte’s liking. The team put out wasn’t the most talented players in each position, but they all fit Conte’s vision of how he wanted to win football games, and it worked much better than expected.
Would Italy have gotten any further than the quarter finals if Verratti had featured? It’s tough to say. Replacing Daniele De Rossi or Thiago Motta with one of the top seven~ midfielders in the world can only improve your team, offensively and defensively.
With Motta out for the quarter finals, Conte opted for Stefano Sturaro. I don’t think I need to bother writing Verratti > Sturaro, and even if MV got banned, Motta > Sturaro.
As it stands Verratti is heading into the prime of his career with only 23 caps, that’s 4.6 caps per year. Since he made his debut, there’s been two international tournaments as well. Not a great record.
International caps don’t define how good a player you are or have been in your career. However most reverred midfielders in the past two decades have had significant international careers. Zidane, Xavi, Iniesta, Kroos, Pirlo. Considering his talent there’s no reason Verratti shouldn’t be amongst these guys when it’s all said and done, and significant international performances do no harm to your legacy.
Cast your mind forward to next summer, Veratti comes off most likely PSG’s most successful season (league, both cups? and a deep CL run, perhaps even a CL win) and goes into an international tournament as an elite midfielder. Whilst Italy have a wider issues in terms of Giampiero Ventura’s management and player choices, but Verratti can still pull off a top WC campaign.