Marco Verratti is learning from Andrea Pirlo, mustn’t get Zlatan Ibrahimovic angry, won’t close the door to Juventus, but is “happy at PSG.”
The midfielder is still only 21 years old, but is a regular for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 and the Champions League, so likely to be at the World Cup.
“We know that we are a big team now,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport after a 3-1 quarter-final first leg win over Chelsea.
“However, three goals against Jose Mourinho’s sides means nothing. It is going to be a war. Did Mourinho study a tactic to trap me? If he said that then it must mean I am doing well.
“Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a real friend. I have a special rapport with him and he’s been close to me since the start in Paris. I owe him a lot.
“The best thing he taught me was the aggressive desire to win. If he loses just one game between ranks in training, he’s furious! This pushes you on to give your best, partly to avoid Ibra getting angry...
“From Thiago Silva I learned the ability to control every ball with a clear head, starting moves from the defence with calm and intelligence. I have a natural rapport with Thiago Motta and it’s only improving. He’s like my banker – I can give him any ball and he’ll make it secure.”
Verratti rarely features for Italy at senior level, making only four appearances with one goal, despite being considered the heir to Pirlo.
“Cesare Prandelli came looking for me when nobody knew me and I am grateful to him for that. When I play for the Nazionale, he wants me to play quicker going forward and to avoid sliding tackles when defending. He knows more than anyone what I can give and I can only adjust to his requests.
“Other than Pirlo, we all have different characteristics in midfield. I am not Claudio Marchisio, nor Riccardo Montolivo or Daniele De Rossi, all players who are an inspiration for me.
“Why do some people doubt me? It’s normal in Italy, because they are never happy with youngsters. I consider it to be further motivation to do even better.
“It would be sad to be left out of the World Cup squad, but I know Prandelli will bring those he considers to be best for this task. Even if football is my passion, there are far more important things in life to get upset about.
“I know the criticism people often level at me is that I run too many risks. The problem is, my weakness is also my strength. That’s how I play.
“Laurent Blanc has understood that too and he doesn’t hold me back, but tells me to evaluate the risk more carefully. I must improve on my risk evaluation, but I am working on it. I also receive too many yellow cards, but I am not nasty.
“Football remains enjoyment for me and it’s stupid to put pressure on yourself. I am getting better, touching the ball less, but doing it better. I try to focus on the essential and learn from my colleagues.”
Verratti admits one of the players he is learning from is his Italy teammate Pirlo, though there are rumours they could be playing together at Juventus soon too.
“Pirlo is my idol and I work every day because I’d love to become like him. I feel this comparison as an honour, because perhaps it proves I am doing well.
“I don’t regret missing out on Serie A, as I went straight from Serie B to a club that allows me to play at the highest level in the Champions League. I might not be a regular starter at PSG, but competition is normal in a side like this. In fact, I prefer to play less if it means my team will win something.”
Verratti shrugged off rumours he would be used in an exchange with Paul Pogba.
“They annoy me a little bit, because it makes it seem as if PSG don’t want me don’t consider me to be as good as Pogba. Instead, I feel absolute faith from the directors, Coach and my colleagues.
“If tomorrow they told me to leave I would be upset, because this feels like my home. However, we are talking about Juventus. Even if I have no intention of leaving Paris, the Bianconeri have one of the most ambitious projects in Europe.
“That is what counts, not the how and the why. I’ll leave that to journalists.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's World Cup tipster competition - £10,000 to be won!