Marco Verratti is a rebel. He is set in his ways and completely conscious of his defiance toward the mainstream.
Verratti is currently the midfield lynchpin for one of Europe’s two most prominent oil-rich clubs — clubs known for annual collections of world class talent. His side, Paris Saint Germain, is the archetype of the modern European giant: a base of nationals mixed with a diverse group of foreign superstars. Verratti, an Italian, represents the foreign contingent at PSG.
And while most foreigners plying their trades in different countries are expected to adapt to their new league’s style of play, Verratti forces everyone else to adapt to him.
He recently told The Telegraph he’s used to arguing with new managers about his style of play. There’s always an initial struggle, he explained, but the managers, coaches and fans eventually come to realize there’s no changing him.
Verratti is a rebel, but he’s also a romantic. His philosophy is Barcelona-esque — he always wants possession of the ball, even if it means playing out of situations that cause heart attacks on the sidelines. If he’s surrounded by three opponents outside of his own penalty box with no passing outlets, he doesn’t punch the ball upfield, he creates his own space until a passing opportunity opens up.
There’s a fearlessness to his play, but don’t assume Verratti is the bravest person on the pitch. All he’s doing is being himself and, to an extent, there’s a certain fearlessness in that.
Verratti even goes as far to say that he’d rather quit soccer than compromise his playing philosophy. A bit extreme, yes, but it signifies his love of the game. Granted, it also reveals his distaste for the win-at-any-cost mentality that consumes the sport. But at least he’s honest about the mistakes his playing style may lead to.
“If one day I let a goal happen that should not have happened then, well, I will take the responsibility for that,” he said. “But I will also continue to play that way.”
High risk, high reward.
Verratti’s insistence on playing out of every situation is hazardous, but it’s the reason his talent is so glaring. His close-control is never on better display than when he’s in possession deep in his final third; the scope of his long range passing is exemplified when he picks out a forward’s last ditch run rather than rashly clearing because of heightened pressure; and his knack for finding open spaces everywhere on the pitch sheds light on his perpetually-in-motion soccer mind.
Yes, Verratti is able to play the way he does because of immense talent, but one of the reasons that talent was fostered is because he’s had the same playing mentality since he was a youngster.
“I have always played the way I play, always continued to do that even when people have told me not to,” he said.
He’s a rebel who knows how to bring out the best in himself. And lucky for us, that means being afforded the opportunity to watch a player who sees the game as a giant puzzle; one whose mind operates in a way that allows him to continually be a step ahead of opponents.
His insistence on ball possession is why he prefers roulettes over robust runs; geometrically measured long balls over howlers up field; intricate build up play over thundering counter attacks.
You wouldn’t be rash in saying Verratti is one of soccer’s fine artists. After all, all artists are rebels.