Tuesday night’s stunning 4-0 win over Barcelona was a massive moment for PSG, but it could also prove to be significant for Chelsea’s summer transfer plans.
Over the past year or so, Marco Verratti has emerged as a favourite target for Blues fans. His performances against Chelsea over three consecutive ties in the Champions League were of such high quality that there has been a constant clamour around Stamford Bridge to see Roman Abramovich really push the boat out to try and buy the Italian midfielder.
The arrival of Antonio Conte in the summer only served to strengthen the belief that a deal could be done. Conte was Verratti’s international manager with Italy until he left to join the Blues this summer, and the Chelsea boss has spoken in glowing terms of the former Pescara player on numerous occasions.
Verratti possesses all the characteristics that Chelsea fans want to see in their midfielders: toughness, grit and work rate married to exceptional technical ability and a great game intelligence. The mere idea of matching him up with N’Golo Kante in the middle of the park is enough to send most Chelsea fans for a cold shower.
The prospects of signing the 24 year old have never been good. He is at one of the richest clubs in the world, who will never have a financial reason to sell. They can match any contract offer Chelsea make, and will never allow their keystone to leave unless their hand is totally forced.
The one chance Chelsea had, beyond Antonio Conte somehow persuading his former charge to force a transfer, was appealing to Verratti’s competitive nature. If he could be persuaded that he was not going to fulfil his potential at PSG he might have felt that a move to Chelsea was necessary.
For a few months earlier this season, that seemed a possibility. PSG had not really made any progress in the Champions League over the past few years, despite big wins including those over Chelsea. They still seemed to fall at the same hurdle, and the replacement of Laurent Blanc with Unai Emery had them going backwards domestically. Just briefly, the fantasy that Verratti might want to join the Blues to improve his chances of European glory became reality.
But Tuesday night’s result has gone a long way to extinguish that hope. PSG showed that they are genuinely competing among the top teams now with a comprehensive victory, while Chelsea fans were forced to watch Verratti add another £10m to his transfer value with another brilliant performance.
It will be hard to convince him now that staying at PSG isn’t the right thing to do. Until Antonio Conte can forge this Chelsea side into a true European power again, the Verratti dream will come no closer to reality.