Vitinha inherits Verratti’s scepter in a crossroads that PSG dominates from midfield | Soccer | Sports

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“PSG is not just Mbappé,” said Imanol Alguacil, Real’s coach, after defeating the Champions League round of 16 1-2 in San Sebastián; “It’s Mbappé, it’s Fabián, it’s Vitinha… To take the ball away from us we have to run a lot and they have taken it away from us.”

1

Remiro, Javi Galán, Le Normand, Zubeldia (Jon Pacheco, min. 76), Hamari Traore, Merino, Brais (Beñat Turrientes, min. 61), Martín Zubimendi (Jon Ander Olasagasti, min. 83), Oyarzabal (André Silva, min. 76), Take Kubo and Sheraldo Becker (Barrenetxea, min. 61)

2

PSG

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Nuno Mendes (Nordi Mukiele, min. 61), Lucas, Beraldo, Achraf Hakimi (Carlos Soler, min. 82), Vitor Ferreira, Fabián (Manuel Ugarte, min. 77), Warren Zaïre-Emery, Ousmane Dembélé ( Randal Kolo Muani, min. 82), Bradley Barcola (Lee Kang-In, min. 45) and Kylian Mbappe

Goals 0-1 min. 15: Kylian Mbappe. 0-2 min. 56: Kylian Mbappe. 1-2 min. 89: Merino.

Referee Michael Oliver

Yellow cards Nuno Mendes (min. 28), Achraf Hakimi (min. 41), Take Kubo (min. 42), Ousmane Dembélé (min. 49) and Zubeldia (min. 54)

Álex Remiro took it from the goal, the ball flew through the sky of Anoeta, and when it landed on the central circle, two players disputed it in a singular duel. On one side, the lanky Merino; on the other, little Vitinha. Vitinha won. The Portuguese midfielder tamed the ball with a touch, took it under control, gave it to Dembelé, Dembelé gave it to Mbappé, and Mbappé did the mischief that preceded the 1-0. It was the ruling of the tie. The 15th minute was passing. flashes They were fired in the direction of the scorer. But the man who conditioned the entire tie from the midfield was the 24-year-old Portuguese who goes by the name of Vitor Ferreira, alias Vitinha.

Among the dazzling stars of Paris Saint-Germain, the spotlight did not shine on Vitinha. But since Luis Enrique put him in charge of operations as the only pivot, in the second half of the first leg of the round of 16 in Paris, PSG was never inferior to Real Sociedad. The goals were scored by Kylian Mbappé. But the board was tilted by Vitinha. The 180 minutes of competition confirmed what the technical secretariat of the French club announced: “Vitinha is better than Verratti.”

The comparison is not trivial. It is established by the club’s head analysts. Affects a legend. Until he retired to Qatari football last summer, Marco Verratti was the most complete midfielder to wear the PSG shirt. His succession opened a period of uncertainty. Luis Enrique began the season leaning towards Manuel Ugarte, the Uruguayan midfielder, whose cost, a 60 million euro transfer to Sporting, conditioned his prevalence. After three months, the technician began to have doubts. Before Christmas he put Vitinha in midfield and began to erode Ugarte in press conferences. “Vitinha can play eight or of six“, said. “I’m sure he would prefer to play ‘eight’, which is his natural position, but his mentality is at a high level.”

Where Ugarte suffered when receiving the ball from his defenders, with his back to the rival goal, Vitinha grew. Luis Enrique, however, was not completely convinced when the tie began. Fabián was the starter in midfield in Paris at the beginning of the match with Real. The experiment lasted 45 minutes. It was enough for Real to press when they were numerically inferior in the rival field so that PSG could not come out playing comfortably. At half-time, Luis Enrique moved Vitinha to the position of six and Fabián to the position of eight. The maneuver preceded 1-0 and 2-0. “Vitinha is a player with a lot of mobility who does not lose balls,” concluded the coach. “I think the change was very good because it allowed us to see the best Vitinha and it allowed us to see the best Fabián. That made the team grow, swell with confidence and we were able to turn around a game that seemed very complicated.”

Luis Enrique changed the tie in Paris from the technical area. Vitinha changed it on the field. The Portuguese’s performance in Anoeta, where he was inaccessible to Real’s high pressure, imposed an unbearable burden on the Basque team. “They have relieved us of the pressure,” Merino lamented. “PSG does not lose balls,” Luis Miguel Arconada judged from the box. Vitinha was in charge of ensuring possession and, above all, the speed of movement in the direction of Mbappé.

“Since we arrived here we have seen where the team is going,” Luis Enrique observed in Paris two weeks ago. “We intend to be a difficult team to pressure; If they decide to press us high we are able to get the ball out and get it to the forwards in good conditions. Except in the first leg, in the first half, where Real pressured us with only six players remaining in superiority behind, four defenders against our three forwards. That’s how he recovered a lot of balls for us. But except for that, we have known how to play.”

Thanks to Vitinha, heir to the great Verratti, Paris Saint-Germain got out of the quagmire and put Mbappé into orbit, author of three goals against Real, six in total, in the eight games played this season in the Champions League.

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