The MSR Advent calendar: Our favorite signings that never happened: Door 24 – Marco Verratti
The situation of the player
PSG have always been said to sign only big players with big names. So when the club announced the transfer of a certain 20-year-old Marco Verratti in 2012, this raised a lot of eyebrows. The Italian, born in Pescara, joined PSG from his youth club Delfino Pescara in Seria B.
In the next five years at Paris’s elite club, Verratti developed into a top performer, but in the summer of 2017 he started looking for a new club. The then 24-year-old wanted to take the next step. At FC Barcelona, he had long been one of the candidates to succeed Iniesta.
Veratti’s transfer request came as a bit of a surprise, because he had extended his contract by three more years only the summer before. On the other hand, Verratti was rarely used due to a groin injury and a torn hamstring. Nevertheless, he did not have to worry about his regular starting place.
Verratti is fast, agile and technically gifted. He is considered a modern number 6 who can structure and direct a game from a deep midfield position. Similar to Joshua Kimmich, he is enormously resistant to pressure and hardly gives away any balls. Offensively, his passes up front to initialize attacks are feared by every opposing team.
The situation at the club
FC Bayern faced a major transition in the summer of 2017. Carlo Ancelotti had taken over from Pep Guardiola the previous summer. At that time, the team, which had won the Champions League in 2013, was at the peak of its game. This was still evident in the first year after Guardiola. At the end of the season, Bayern had a 15-point lead over promoted Leipzig and no less than 18 points over their perennial rivals from Dortmund. However, in the DFB-Pokal, Bayern were eliminated 2-3 against Dortmund in the semi-finals, while in the Champions League they went out against Real Madrid (4-2 after extra time). Many will remember Vidal’s sending-off. What was noticeable at the time – Xabi Alonso’s time at FC Bayern was drawing to a close.
The season saw Philipp Lahm’s and Xabi Alonso’s last hurrah. Both players ended their careers. In addition, the young Renato Sanches was found to be too error-prone in his first year at the club. He was loaned out to Swansea. So the need for an additional player in midfield was substantial. The transfer of Verratti fell through relatively early. The asking price of Paris was too high. Bayern signed Corentin Tolisso instead.
As fate would have it, the player and both clubs would soon meet again when Bayern faced PSG in the Champions League group stage. An 0-3 defeat marked the end of Carlo Ancelotti. The transition at the club was in peril.
The ‘what if’ outlook
Verratti would surely have made a decisive impact in FC Bayern’s midfield at the side of Thiago. Ancelotti would have had another link-up player to make his 4-3-3 less static and predictable. The combination of Verratti / Thiago and Vidal would have given Bayern’s build-up play a degree of flexibility that only a few clubs could match at the time. Verratti would probably have added to the Bayern game what Kimmich has provided in the last two years: A stable structure and decisive actions from midfield.
This axis in midfield would have been augmented by Kimmich and Alaba in the wide positions and Ribéry, Robben, Müller, and Lewandowski in attack. From the bench, Ancelotti could have brought in James, who could have provided even more tactical variety.
With the Italian, Bayern would probably have looked better in their second year under Ancelotti. It is quite conceivable that Verratti would have made the difference between merely good and very successful years at FC Bayern. It would be ironic if Pep Guardiola’s predecessor and his successor at FC Bayern had won the Champions League while he himself was not able to. However, this would have been a difficult task. Real Madrid were at the height of their creative powers. Even though Bayern came close to reaching the final in the 2017/18 second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.
However, the many changes in the coaching position (Ancelotti, Heynckes, Kovac, Flick) would arguably not have taken place in this form, as FC Bayern could have been far more confident in their play. The transition from Kroos to Alonso to Verratti would have been smoother.
On the other hand, everything fell into place for Bayern in 2020. Marco Verratti, meanwhile, is still waiting for his big international triumph. Due to a calf injury, he only came on as a substitute in the 2020 Champions League final. With him, the game turned around, but it was too little, too late. FC Bayern with Thiago in central midfield won the game and the title.
We wish all our readers a festive and relaxing holiday season. The entire Miasanrot editorial team thanks you for your loyalty.
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I hope this is the last installment of this sad, what if? series…perhaps the younger generation are interested in this “fantasy” football crap but I find it boring. Bayern are one of the greatest teams in Europe and this only adds, from what I can see in the selection of players, that we never came up to the level of big spending (cough cough, indebted or ridiculous rich owner aloch owner) clubs.
Happy Holidays and can’t wait for the return to real Bundesliga commentary!
I enjoyed the series of the group that never was. I think Verrati or Kompany, would top my list.
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