Verratti: Pirlo still key to Italy midfield

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The PSG midfielder, who shone in the absence of the veteran playmaker, believes his experienced team-mate still has a huge role to play with the Azzurri going forward

Marco Verratti has played down suggestions he is set to replace Andrea Pirlo at the heart of Italy's midfield despite a starring role in Azerbaijan on Saturday evening.

The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder shone in the 3-1 Group H victory in Baku, creating the opening goal for Eder with a sublime assist.

Verratti stepped into the centre of midfield for the clash –which secured Italy's place at Euro 2016 – after Pirlo was ruled out with a hamstring injury sustained in training.

After the display Verratti was mentioned as Pirlo's potential successor within Antonio Conte's squad, but he says the 36-year-old still has a part to play with the national team.

"There is no inheritance to collect," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Pirlo is here, he is the most important player in this group. We need to make the most of what he brings for as long as we can.

"I do make the most of it. We speak often and he helps me even when we don't speak. It's enough just for me to watch him play.

"This wasn't about taking on his mantle or taking control of the team."

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