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Marco Verratti & Conte: Why Chelsea's manager will be delighted this week...

COMMENT: Antonio Conte will be all over this. Absolutely all over it. The fracture. The divide. The chasm - which is developing between Marco Verratti and French football.

The Chelsea manager must see an opening. An opportunity. To finally land a player he has coveted for four years. Yes, he worked with Verratti as Italy coach, dubbing him the nation's "future". But Conte wanted Verratti at Juventus. They all did. Beppe Marotta; Fabio Paratici; Andrea Agnelli. They all rue being trumped by PSG for the former Zdenek Zeman protégé - the French snapping up the Pescara starlet from under Juve's nose.

If those who love Ligue 1 believe in keeping talent like Verratti involved, they have a funny way of showing it. His Marseille meltdown may've been the catalyst, but this rift between Verratti, PSG and local pundits has been developing since the start of the season.

Even his loyal agent, Donati Di Campli, usually so calm when discussing his client and the latest big money move he's been associated with, lost his rag this week.

The relationship between PSG's new coach Unai Emery and Verratti has been cool from the start. Verratti, an ever-present under Carlos Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc, is no first-choice for the Spaniard. Emery argues the Italian's groin surgery at the backend of last season means he still needs to be bedded in. Verratti, meanwhile, is convinced Emery doesn't rate him - or at least doesn't see how a player of his qualities can fit into his system.

The flashpoint came Monday night and the Classique against Olympique Marseille. The game finished at stalemate, but was front and backpage news thanks to Verratti's blow-up. With less than an hour on the clock, Emery hooked the midfielder. Verratti was infuriated. Incensed. And the TV cameras caught his meltdown live, complaining to anyone who'd listen in the dugout about the decision.

Verratti's reaction sparked a firestorm, which has dominated local media all week.

World Cup winner Christophe Dugarry declared Verratti "selfish" and his behaviour "unacceptable". Pundit Karim Nedjari described him as "a spoilt little child". And fellow RMC personality Daniel Riolo went further, barking: "He's been allowed to do anything, say anything, the little darling. It's nice to be the marvel of PSG, but when does the marvel actually shine? When will you justify that 700, 000 to 800,000 per month you get?"

Riolo's words captured the general feeling towards Verratti. Ex-players, current players, teammates, pundits... they've all said their piece on the incident. It lasted barely 20 seconds, but Verratti, in that moment, offered himself up as the scapegoat for everything that is wrong at PSG this season.

The champions, sansZlatan Ibrahimovic, sit in third place, struggling to find an identity on the pitch with Emery - and off it, with the club failing to replace the man who left them for Manchester United.

"We have an excellent relationship with the president and the club, but we demand respect!" declared Di Campli the day after the night before... "Marco deserves respect for all he has done for PSG."

Di Campli's defence of Verratti had been a long time coming. This wasn't just a reaction to the Marseille fallout. Di Campli has seen his client endure weeks and weeks of criticism. The reaction to Monday night was simply the last straw.

Unfortunately for Verratti and his minders, he (well, one of his friends) managed to pour fuel on the inferno after an image of him enjoying a cigarette with pals popped up on Snapchat 48 hours later. Erm, not exactly the best week of the lad's career...

In the meantime, across the Channel, Conte will be more than simply an interested observer. If the story that ran in Tuttosport on Wednesday has legs to it, the Chelsea manager will be all over it. Turin's biggest daily revealed intermediaries had actually offered Verratti to Inter Milan, quoting a salary of €6 million to get the deal done. The Nerazzurri found the terms too rich for their liking, but Juve are another matter - as is Conte and Chelsea.

We know all about the offers to Napoli for Kalidou Koulibaly and Hoffenheim for Niklas Sule to strengthen his defence. As we the bid for Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata and call to Carlos Tevez while driving around Buenos Aries. But there's been little to reach the public about Conte's plans for his midfield.

"He likes Cesc, he really does," an Italian source who has worked with Conte told this week. "But I don't think he has the defensive game he wants in a midfielder."

But what about Andrea Pirlo, he wasn't exactly a blood n' thunder type?

"Yeah, but Pirlo was clever. He knew where he needed to be when Juve didn't have the ball. I just don't see that intelligence with Cesc."

But he will get that with Verratti. The range of passing. The mobility. The cutting edge. Everything that Cesc has, Verratti also boasts in his locker. But the Italian will also get his foot in. Track back. Be as influential off the ball as he is on it. He's a real Conte-type player.

The idea of a midfield pairing of N'Golo Kante and Verratti would have even the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona shuddering. Potentially, it has the makings of being best combination in the game.

For Conte, with the relationship already established, he just needs Roman Abramovich's backing to make the deal happen. Oh, and for the French media to continue their campaign against his former Azzurri star.

Read more:

Marco Verratti: What they said about PSG star's Marseille meltdown

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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