Lionel Messi has opened up on the prospect of linking up with Marco Verratti at Paris Saint-Germain, describing the midfield dynamo as “one of the best in the world”, while also revealing Barcelona wanted to sign him.
Messi, 34, signed a two-year deal with the French heavyweights after confirming his departure from Barcelona last week, arriving in Paris on Tuesday before putting pen to paper on a 24-month contract with the option of an extra year.
The transfer sent ripples across the football landscape as the six-time Ballon d’Or winner left the club for whom he represented across the past 21 years, becoming the club’s record appearance maker and all-time top goalscorer in that trophy-laden period.
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He links up with compatriot Mauricio Pochettino, former El Clasico nemesis Sergio Ramos and a whole host of stellar names, including Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Georginio Wijnaldum, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Angel Di Maria and, of course, Verratti.
The Euro 2020 winner has long seen his name linked with a move to Barcelona since bursting onto the scene for Pescara, an obvious connection given his playing style, stature and passing range, which have often drawn parallels with Andres Iniesta, a sentiment echoed by Messi.
When asked whether Verratti is on the same level as Xavi Hernandez and Iniesta in their prime, Messi replied: “Without a doubt.
“Verratti has shown that he is a huge player, one of the best in the world in his position. He is a phenomenon.
“He was wanted in Barcelona, but now it is the reverse and it is me coming to him in Paris.”
Verratti: The perfect Barca midfielder?
There can be no mistaking the parallels in Verratti’s game with that of a typical Barcelona midfielder. Diminutive in build, the combative tempo-setter is a passing fanatic, able to control the pace of the game, break defensive lines or keep possession.
Last season the Italian averaged 97.73 completed passes per 90 minutes, more than any Barcelona or PSG player who featured in over 20 league games. In fact, that tally put him ahead of any player in La Liga, Ligue 1 or the rest of Europe’s top five divisions in 2020/21.
It will therefore come as no surprise to hear Messi’s eulogy of Verratti and to know Barca were once keeping tabs on him. That laser-guided passing accuracy would flourish at the Camp Nou, where retaining possession is as important as scoring a goal.