Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta has been at the pinnacle of the European game for over a decade. Tonight’s match against PSG served as a changing of the guard with the little Spanish wizard passing on the mantle of Europe’e best midfielder to Italian Marco Verratti.
In truth Iniesta and indeed his Barcelona side have been in steady decline for the last few seasons. Still able to hand out drubbings every other week in La Liga but found wanting against both Madrid sides domestically as well as in the later stages of the Champion’s League. If proof of this decline was needed, you needn’t have looked further than the match in Paris on Tuesday night.
Despite leaving the pitch due to injury having played just over an hour, Verratti did enough to put the game and almost certainly the tie beyond the reach of Barca.
Marco Verratti's game by numbers vs Barcelona:
90% pass accuracy
4 tackles won
2 chances created
Top-class performance. pic.twitter.com/uRDIZrNoYo
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 14, 2017
Dominant from the very first minute, Verratti set the tone and the pace for his side. Taking up clever positions on the rare occasions Barcelona managed to string a few passes together, the little no.6 was sharp and decisive in the tackle. Even taking into account Barcelona’s undoubted decline and casual approach on the night Verratti was exceptional. Luis Enrique’s side may have presented PSG with an unexpected opportunity, but Verratti made sure his side seized it with both hands.
Surprisingly strong for such a small player, he uses his body and his low center of gravity to great effect when shielding the ball. It’s that same low center of gravity that gives him such beautiful balance and allows him to elude many challenges with just the slightest body swerve.
— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) February 14, 2017
Excellent technique on the ball may be the least you expect from a top class midfielder, Verratti has it in spades, even more impressively he has the bravery to accept the ball in any situation. He plays with no fear, even when he’s closely marked he doesn’t think twice about showing for the ball. He has the close control to beat opposition midfielders in tight situations, the resolve to do so and the vision and technique to follow it up with a progressive, positive forward ball.
Verratti marshaled his fellow midfielder’s brilliantly on the night. Blaise Matuidi and Adrien Rabiot where deployed like rabid attack dogs to press Barcelona and hunt down the ball, both players also displayed great ability on the ball. It was Verratti who orchestrated the outstanding performance though, never getting ahead of the ball, always keeping the whole game in front of him, setting his teammates off into attack and backing them up to devastating effect all night.
Marco Verratti – just wow. What a sensational player. Paris Saint-Germain have Barcelona on the ropes. Messi awful in possession.
— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) February 14, 2017
Verratti has been touted as the perfect fit for Barcelona, he’s even previously expressed an interest in joining the Catalonia giants. On the evidence of Barcelona’s insipid display tonight he may be best served staying put. Wherever he decides to ply his trade Marco Verratti will be one of the elite midfielders in the European game for the next decade at least.