Perception is important in life. Perception will warp reality or replace it completely when the reality is unknown. When a specific perception has been injected into a story, it will tend to drive the narrative of that story–fairly or not.
Let’s start with the reality before we get to the perception. Paris Saint-Germain is not Marco Verratti FC. They’ve had talented players throughout their history and will continue to field exceptional talent long after Verratti’s career is over. Despite the most recent season ending in disappointment, financial status, the appeal of Paris, and tendrils that reach into the most football-rich corners of the earth, the capital club is on solid ground.
However, if you read Marca or L’Equipe, PSG is the desperate, delusional spouse who refuses to admit that the marriage is over. Verratti is the uber-talent who yearns to spread his wings on the big stage, while Nasser Al-Khelaifi is the small-time manager who is holding him back and refusing to let him go. The Italian is wasting his talent in football hell just waiting for the chance to go to Camp Nou heaven. These accusations and assumptions are obviously ridiculous to anyone who gives it a moment of thought but you know…perception.
To understand this situation, remember first that Verratti is 5’5″ tall. He is not the strongest, the fastest, or the most technically gifted at his position. His success comes from his constant motor, dogged determination, and his footballing brain, which in today’s game is one of the best. Verratti in a sense is an overachiever. With those factors comes a certain desire to search for new challenges and constantly prove yourself to others. Marco has been at PSG since 2012 and like any athlete in his mid-20s, he’s looking for new goals and opportunities. So do I think the Italy international really wants to leave PSG for Barcelona FC? Yes I do.
The former Pescara man’s desire to leave the Parc des Princes may be tempered by a pesky little detail called his contract. In a desire to raise his wages, Verratti has put himself in a bit of a bind. This is where reality comes back into the picture. In what has become an annual tradition, Verratti signed his fourth contract extension last August, which means he is tied to the club until the summer of 2021. Usually, if a star player really wants to leave his current team the length of the contract isn’t much of an issue but in this case it is.
@MarcoVerratti1 al @PSG_inside fino al 2021. 37 min netti in 5 anni, bonus compresi. Colpaccio di @donatodicampli pic.twitter.com/W5Y7QO192c
— Alessandro Alciato (@AAlciato) August 2, 2016
If his contract expired in 2018, PSG would be in trouble. If his contract expired in 2019, PSG would have to sell him to gain maximum value. That’s not the case though. His contract expires in four years and the capital club should not be bullied into selling a valuable asset for anything less than his full worth (plus more) just because the player wants to leave. This sets the precedent that Les Parisiens have no say in the coming-and-going of its top players–a slippery slope to traverse.
“But what if he boycotts the club” some will say. What an absurdly bad idea for a world class player to sit out an entire season before the FIFA World Cup next summer. If Verratti dares to boycott, Paris should call his bluff and see how long he holds out. As the old saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
In no way do I advocate keeping a player at a club against his wishes. That in general is not good business. However, here is the true reality of the situation–the one Verratti won’t admit nor will the brass at PSG tell him to his face:
Dear Marco Verratti,
As a PSG fan who has watched most of your career, I can tell you without a doubt that you are not ready for Barcelona. Not because of the quality of your play, although in some big games their has been something left to be desired, but because you are not enough of a man to handle the pressure of Barcelona. If you cannot get through a half against Rennes without getting a yellow card, what makes you think you can step into Andre Iniesta’s cleats and take that heat? PSG has stuck by you and developed you as a player and the supporters of this club love you. You will not have that same luxury at Barca. If you do not perform they will kick you aside. Can you handle that pressure? I’m not so sure. I also doubt the Catalan club will be willing to increase your wages every season as PSG has done every time you’ve asked.
A little tough love in all of that but it needs to be said. Some of what I said may be a bit unfair and I understand that and to an extent agree. That doesn’t change the underlying fact that as our best player he did nothing to turn around the remontada. The reality is Verratti is not an all-time great player held down in a tin-pot league on a second-tier team. The reality is that Verratti is a great player who has grown in the same way that his club has, painfully with ups and downs. He has unfinished business and leaving now would tarnish his legacy. A UEFA Champions League title at PSG would mean more than at Barcelona where they are destined to reach the quarter-finals every season at worst. That may be the un-objective sentimentalist in me but this is undisputedly true.
This is not a groveling plea to ask the Italian maestro to stay forever. I understand the reality and realize that the call of Barcelona is too tempting for a player of Verratti’s caliber. This is a realistic call to both parties to give it one more try, no extension, no wage hike, just one more chance to achieve the goal Qatar Sports Investments set when they became majority owners in 2011. As fool-hearty and ultimately pointless as it may be, it might be the best of a tough situation. It allows PSG to begin grooming the midfield of the future without throwing them to the sharks right away. It also gives Verratti stability and more time to grow up before the most important football tournament of his life with his national team next summer. If, after this season, he decides to stay I would be thrilled. If he still chooses Barcelona, then thank you for the memories.
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