By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor
Paris Saint-Germain created headlines recently by snapping up Napoli's Ezequiel Lavezzi and AC Milan's Thiago Silva, and while the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has grabbed the spotlight in the last few days, their purchase of Marco Verratti has caused no small waves in Italy, as the youngster many have touted as 'the next Andrea Pirlo' is added to the fastest growing pool of talent in world football.
At just 19, Verratti was one of the key figures behind Pescara's promotion to Serie A last season, and he also broke into the Italy squad for the first time.
His performances for both his club and Italy's Under-21s were the subject of much enthusiasm across the peninsula as Pescara's promotion hopes increased and Verratti's performances improved.
Now that he has been signed by Carlo Ancelotti's big-money outfit, he has the chance to prove that he can make the step up from second-tier prodigy to top-flight megastar.
So, is the hype justified? Well, according to Renato Maisani of Goal.com Italia, there is no doubting Verratti’s potential.
"In Italy there is already talk of him becoming a top player over the course of the next four to five years and, in my opinion, he really is very good," Maisani opined.
"Still, though, in Serie B – partly due to a role that doesn't allow Verratti to score many goals – it was his team-mates Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, two other great talents, who often made all the headlines."
|MARCO VERRATTI | PSG, Midfielder, 19
However, Maisani feels that labelling Verratti as ‘the new Pirlo’ is a little misleading.
"In terms of his position on the field, he can be compared to Pirlo," he mused. "But in terms of his style of play, he is more similar to Chile's David Pizarro.
"Some have even compared him to Xavi, but he doesn't yet have the same ability to move the ball forward like the Spaniard."
While Verratti featured prominently for Pescara in 2010-11, he only nailed down a regular berth in the first team last season. However, Maisani is in no doubt that the Italy U21 international is ready for the big time, though he does have a couple of concerns.
Young Gun | Verratti played a starring role to help Pescara gain promotion"Technically, Verratti is too good for Serie B and in spite of his young age, he already has a strong personality," he enthused.
"On the field, though, he is at times over zealous in the tackle and runs the risk of picking up yellow cards - even after he's already been booked.
"Also, his best position is in front of the defence but he has to be played alongside a hard-running, ball-winning midfielder."
Now that he has made the leap to Ligue 1, what can he expect in terms of first-team opportunities? Goal.com's French Football Editor Robin Bairner explains what the future may hold for Verratti at his new club.
"PSG are one of Europe’s most ambitious clubs. Over the last year they have been blessed by great wealth, but ever since Qatar Sports Investments [QSI] took over the club they have stated their ambitions to not only build for today, but to look to the future instead – sign the next Lionel Messi, they say," says Bairner.
"In Verratti, they have acquired their first genuine rising star, and a player who would appear capable of providing an extra dimension to the side at a tender age."
How he fits into the team in the short term will depend upon his physical robustness, but in the long term he will be used as the fulcrum of the side; the player around which everything revolves. Every great side needs a general, and the deep-lying playmaker in the mould of Pirlo will be PSG’s.
"I have an excellent impression of the club, they are great champions," Verratti told reporters at his unveiling. "There are players here that I have watched on TV and I am very proud to be playing with them.
"I am very happy that [coach Carlo] Ancelotti has put his faith in me.
"I told Pescara that PSG were my first choice. They will eventually will become the biggest club in the world.
"Comparisons with Andrea Pirlo are flattering and make me happy, he is one of the best creative midfielders in the world."
The Ligue 1 club will have purchased the Italian with the long game in mind, but there is little doubt that he will have a role to play this season, too.
"He is young, he is the future of Italy and the future of PSG," said president Nasser Al-Khelaifi. "As we said in the beginning, our strategy is also based on youngsters, not just the big players.
If he can quickly break into the starting XI of Les Parisiens, where Italy internationals Salvatore Sirigu and Thiago Motta are already established, he will have taken the next steps to following the great Pirlo, providing PSG with a vital additional component in the process.