Despite the chatter of a new, progressive Italy, the emphasis on certain positions remains. Italy’s last two major international triumphs possessed world-class goalkeeping. Buffon in 06′ and Donnarumma today. A center-back pairing peaking at the right moment. Cannavaro and Marco Materazzi in 06′, Bonucci and Chiellini today. And an underrated, world class, ball playing midfielder. Pirlo in 06′, and Verratti today. And while Donnarumma, Bonucci and Chiellini have captured hearts, and rightly so, Marco Verratti hummed along as Italy’s best player.
Maybe it’s because he missed two matches. Maybe it’s because he didn’t score any goals, or pick up any red cards, but Marco Verratti Euro 2020 performances hid out right in front of us.
Consider, despite his treadmill mouth and stick-in-the-spokes tackling, he picked up only one card (a yellow). He completed 401 out of 425 passes, good for 9th in the tournament. His pass completion finished at a 93% clip. He created three assists. Impressive for a midfielder who at times was playing so deep, he was initiating build ups next Bonucci. He recovered 30 balls. Led the tournament with 30 tackles. Finished second with 8 tackles won, and also first in tackles lost with 22 (haha). Talk about getting stuck in. He also covered 49.9 km.
But statistics are limited. How do you measure cool? How can you measure composure? How is courage to receive the ball in the tightest of spaces, under the harshest pressure tallied? It’s Verratti’s trait of calm that helped Italy whether Spain’s press and control possession in midfield in every other match.
Locatelli’s brace was an early tournament highlight. Jorginho is rightfully in the Ballon d’or conversation. Spinzzola (before injury), deserves his newfound admirers, and Donnarumma must be the best keeper on the planet. But don’t forget Marco Verratti. His midfield play throughout Euro 2020 was a performance for the ages.