A crowd is gathered in front of the Eiffel Tower. Lines of security guards hold it back while Zlatan Ibrahimovic poses for the cameras at a photo opportunity after the completion of his move from AC Milan to Paris Saint-Germain. A shirt with his name printed on the back is held aloft. A few kick-ups performed.
Everyone is here to see him. Everyone has overlooked the other new signing unveiled that day: Marco Verratti. "Contrary to the other champions who play for Paris Saint-Germain, I am a little unknown here," he admitted.
Outside of Italy, few had heard of Verratti and as such he didn't fit the profile of player many have come to expect Paris Saint-Germain to sign. Unlike Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi, he was not a Galactique. "Who is Marco Verratti?" asked a curious L'Equipe.
Bought for £10m from Pescara, which, incidentally, was the smallest outlay of Paris Saint-Germain's £129m spending spree this summer, the teenage Verratti had never once played in Serie A and was dubbed a "confused purchase." There was scepticism.
Forgotten in all of this was one of the aims stated by president Nasser al-Khelaïfi shortly after the Qatar Sports Investment fund finalised its takeover of Paris Saint-Germain a year ago. "We are not trying to recruit Lionel Messi," he said, "but we want to invest in the greatest talents of tomorrow. We want the new Messi."
Al-Khelaïfi was of course making the general point here that, for all the money Paris Saint-Germain have splurged on established names thus far, they are also focused on finding the next big thing. It just so happens that before identifying "the new Messi" so to speak, they have, in Verratti, managed to get their hands on a player billed as "the new Pirlo."
"He has always been what they call in Italy a 'predestinato', a talent that's visible even from a young age" explained Antonio Di Battista, the head of Pescara's academy. "When I discovered him playing for his [local] team Manoppello, he was already doing exceptional things with the ball."
Amid great competition from Atalanta and Inter, both of whom wanted Verratti to join their youth set-ups, Pescara offered €5,000, a few footballs to train with and five tickets for his family to watch the team play Juventus, the club he and his mother and brother all supported. In addition to Pescara's closeness to home, it sealed the deal.
For a time, however, Verratti's size, or lack thereof was a concern. "Many [disregarded me because of it]," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "In the beginning they judged me only on that. When I got into the Under-16s, things started to change." Still, Verratti didn't all of a sudden become much taller. He is only 5ft 5in even today. But such was his talent, he stood head and shoulders above the other lads in his age group.
That much was clear after Pescara's Under-16s paid a visit to Vismara, the home of AC Milan's various youth teams and Verratti put on a virtuoso performance. He almost singlehandedly inflicted defeat on his illustrious hosts. So impressed were Milan's directors by Verratti that there was a knock on the dressing room door after the game and an offer to stay for a trial. A switch to Milan was a formality.
All he had to do was stay overnight and pass a medical the following day. But Verratti wasn't ready to leave home. "He cried and said: 'I want to go back to Pescara'," Di Battista recalled. Behind the tears there was homesickness, true, but also the player's wish to get into Pescara's first team and, maybe, make as lasting an impression at the Stadio Adriatico, albeit in a different way, as "my idol Federico Giampaolo", the club's all-time top scorer.
Verratti realised his ambition in no time at all. He was a regular at 16 playing as a No.10 behind Pescara's strikers in the Lega Pro then Serie B. Yet last season marked arguably the most significant turning point in his fledgling career when Pescara appointed the enigmatic Zdenek Zeman.
Within his uncompromising 4-3-3, there was no place for a No.10 so, after a discussion it was decided to withdraw Verratti and play him in front of the defence as a deep-lying playmaker. The move recalled what had happened to Pirlo first under Carlo Mazzone at Brescia then with Carlo Ancelotti at Milan. Understandably, the comparisons between the pair began to heighten.
"I always liked the idea of changing position," Verratti revealed, "and when [Zeman] proposed it to me the movements came naturally. I thought that this is the role that suits me the most. Zeman told me that as long as I did fewer back heels it would all be fine. I trusted him and now I can say that he was right."
Pescara were an absolute revelation. Inspired by Verratti and other youngsters too, notably Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile, they won promotion to Serie A, returning the club to Italy's top flight for the first time in nearly two decades.
In recognition of his performances Cesare Prandelli called Verratti up to his provisional squad for Euro 2012. "At first I thought it was a joke," he claimed. "Even now it doesn't seem real to me."
In the meantime, Serie A's top clubs were queuing up to acquire Verratti. Juventus, aware of his support for the club and their own need for a deputy and long-term successor for Pirlo, were said to be in advanced talks. Roma were also believed to be seriously considering reuniting Verratti with Zeman and Napoli had come forward with a bid too.
Then one day, Pescara president Daniele Sebastiani received a call from Paris Saint-Germain. It was an offer he couldn't refuse. All were gazumped. No sooner had he arrived on the scene in Italy than he was leaving for France.
Verratti's departure provoked a lot of soul-searching. As if it weren't enough that Serie A couldn't hold on to the stars of today like Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, it couldn't hang on to those of tomorrow like Verratti either.
On the one hand, there was disdain that no club, not even one as strong as Juventus, had made Verratti feel wanted enough to stay in the country. On the other, there was the tacit acknowledgement that no one could realistically be expected to compete with the 'silly' money tabled by Paris Saint-Germain.
Prandelli in particular was especially embittered by the outcome. "I find it scandalous that a player like Verratti who we have seen in Italy, who we knew well, has ended up abroad, that we have let him go," he lamented. "I repeat: Scandalous."
And yet, despite his evident disappointment that Verratti isn't playing in Italy, Prandelli can't but be delighted with how well he has done since he swapped Pescara for Paris.
Proclaimed by Le Parisien as "the star that you didn't expect," Verratti was also described by L'Equipe as the man of the moment after a series of sensational displays coincided with Paris Saint-Germain turning their season around and beginning to look like they might finally live up to expectation.
Mature beyond his years in Paris Saint-Germain's first win of the season away to Lille, he was superb again in a 2-0 victory at home to Toulouse, chipping Javier Pastore through for the opener and starting the move for the winner. It was a performance that earned Verratti a standing ovation from the Parc des Princes.
"He played almost perfect," Paris Saint-Germain legend Daniel Bravo told L'Equipe. "It's hard to find fault with it.
As a reward, Ancelotti handed him a Champions League debut four days later against Dynamo Kyiv. His faith was repaid with another fine showing and Verratti then carried his form into a trip to Bastia, setting up Ibrahimovic with a one-two and playing a role in the counter-attack for Paris Saint-Germain's third in a 4-0 demolition job in Corsica, which made it four wins on the trot.
In some respect, it's surprising how quickly Verratti has settled in on the pitch. Off it, however, is a slightly different matter. "I put a satellite dish on my terrace so I could watch Pescara's games," he revealed to La Repubblica, "but they made me take it down. Rather than do without it, I'm changing house, a week maximum and I will move."
For now, the Parc des Princes is his home. Verratti plays there as if in his own front garden. Ancelotti is certainly accommodating him, making him feel comfortable, just as he did Pirlo and he likes the comparisons with his old pupil even if he feels they should be more nuanced. "He's a little different to [Pirlo]," Ancelotti explained. "He plays shorter. He's less of a launcher of the ball, but you should see him in tight spaces: fantastic!
"He is one of the best young players and can be important for our future. Even if Andrea remains Andrea in terms of quality, experience and character, the nickname 'the new Pirlo' suits Marco."
James Horncastle will be blogging for us on all matters Serie A throughout the season. He contributes to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, The Blizzard and Champions magazine amongst others.