Paris Saint-Germain's thumping 4-0 victory over Bastia in Corsica capped a memorable start to the season for one of the capital club's new additions. Already having found his place in the new-look PSG with a string of superlative performances, the 19-year old has become a fixture in Carlo Ancelotti's first team plans long before anybody expected him to figure in the club's drive for success. That youngster of course is Marco Verratti, the diminutive Italian signed from Pescara this summer following their promotion to Serie A.
Verratti's arrival in Paris was a muted affair given that the club had just blown the European transfer window apart by signing Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from AC Milan. However, the young Italian has been one of the club's most valuable acquisitions thus far and his early performances have already prompted Ancelotti to re-think his tactics to accommodate the wonderkid.
Recent performances against Toulouse, Dynamo Kiev and Bastia in particular have caught the eye but Verratti was looking impressive as early as PSG's home friendly against Barcelona in August. Handed a starting berth for the season's opener at home to Lorient, the youngster caught the eye despite a mediocre display from the hosts and has been involved in all of the club's opening six matches in Ligue 1. One of a number of players making their Champions League debut against Kiev recently, he produced a performance of startling maturity and composure to illustrate exactly why his reputation is developing at such an alarming pace.
A central midfielder by position, Verratti looks wet behind the ears at first glance and standing at five foot five, his appearance is still that of a youth teamer. Normally stationed at the heart of a central midfield trio, the Italian excels in the deep-lying playmaker role made so famous by his compatriot Andrea Pirlo. Paired alongside two of Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi or Clement Chantome, his education is being overseen some of the league's best players in that position and more crucially, the coach that created the fabled deep-lying creator.
Capable of playing further forward with fantastic distribution skills, unerring accuracy and impressive stamina, Ancelotti has recognised Verratti's potential early and begun to build his team with his protégée as one of the cornerstones. Until the little Italian's emergence, Ancelotti was facing a tactical conundrum of how to best accommodate talented playmaker Javier Pastore given the heavy influx of attacking talent.
The solution it seems is the least heralded of the summer signings made by the club and it is perhaps this lack of expectation, at least in the short-term, that has allowed King Carlo to abandon his attempts to convert the Argentine into the deep-lying playmaker and play Verratti there instead. With Pastore now deployed in his preferred position in the attacking third, PSG are reaping the rewards having already turned in some awesome attacking displays.
So far this season les Rouges-et-Bleus have turned in some excellent results, a 2-1 win in Lille was followed up with a 2-0 home victory over Toulouse before a comprehensive dismantling (4-1) of Kiev preceded an away day trouncing of Bastia (4-0). The results have seen PSG leap up to third in the league from 11th whilst immediately topping their group in the Champions League.
Verratti has played a big part in the team finding form having started four of the six league games played so far and making two further appearances as a substitute. In that time he has provided two assists including one glorious lofted pass over the Toulouse defence from deep to send Pastore away for the opener against le Tefece, shades of Pirlo already. He also started against Kiev in the Champions League and produced his most accomplished performance to date.
Speaking after that match to Italian television he said: "I am very happy to be here in Paris and part of such a fantastic team. I don't feel any pressure for the moment; I am just concentrating on playing well in training and giving the manager a selection headache each week. I want to keep my place."
Tenacious in the tackle and enterprising going forward, Verratti is part of a rare breed and is one of the bright hopes for an otherwise gloomy future for Italian football. Having already made his full debut for the Azzurri in August against England, the midfielder is part of coach Cesare Prandelli's plans for the future and the Italian supremo has already admitted his annoyance that Serie A has allowed such a prodigious talent slip from its grasp.
Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy he said: "I find it outrageous that a talent like Verratti has been allowed to go abroad. We knew about him and let him go. This is a scandal."
Not only is Verratti an incredible talent but he also has maturity beyond his years, a maturity that will serve him well as he consolidates his key role for the PSG juggernaut. Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be grabbing all the headlines with his goalscoring exploits of late, but that doesn't mean that the Italian's performances are going unnoticed. He will be happy for 'Ibra' to keep hogging the limelight as he works hard in the background. And if PSG are successful in winning the Ligue 1 title this season, then he could prove to be just as vital as the Swede.