Brilliant Pastore worth every centime


Eyebrows were raised when PSG parted with €42m for Javier Pastore, yet Ligue 1 commentator Matthew Spiro claims the Argentine is value for money and is backing him to star in Sunday's clash with Lyon.

The pressure on Pastore to perform in the early weeks of his PSG career was immense. The capital club may be flush with cash following the Qatari takeover, but in spending so much money on someone so young and inexperienced, new president Nasser El-Khelaifi and his sporting director Leonardo were taking an almighty gamble.



Risky business


Pastore's price tag seemed absurd for a player who boasted just two years European experience and is not even a regular with his national team. Even notorious big-spenders Chelsea were reluctant to go quite that high, so for a Ligue 1 club to do so was extraordinary. But ambitious Paris were determined to secure their 'marquee signing'. They wanted to send a message to the rest of Europe.



Dimitar Berbatov, Neymar and Diego Forlan were linked, but Leonardo chose to go with his gut instinct.



The former AC Milan and Internazionale coach had followed Pastore's performances for Palermo closely and had fallen for the player big time. Sure, €42m is a huge sum, certainly above the market rate, yet Leonardo was prepared to stake his reputation on the slender shoulders of the man known as 'El Flaco' (the skinny one). Those lucky enough to have witnessed Pastore's early displays at PSG will understand why.



Pastore's debut was delayed by injury. As the clamour for the 22-year-old grew, PSG coach Antoine Kombouaré had the bright idea of blooding him against Luxdembourg part-timers Differdange in the Europa League. Nobody paid much attention and Pastore was afforded the luxury of feeling his way in to the team. Then followed a low-key entrance to Ligue 1: an unremarkable substitute cameo against Valenciennes.




Deep impact


By the time Pastore made his first league start at Toulouse on August 28, his fitness levels were good, he'd learned some French and had already made friends in the dressing room. Nobody, however, could have expected his impact to be so sudden and so dramatic.



Slotting in to 'the hole' behind Kévin Gameiro, with Nenê to his left and Jérémy Menez to his right, Pastore made 'les galactiques de Paris' look like a team, rather than a collection of individuals, for the first time as they won out 3-1 at the Municipal Stadium.




In five league starts, Pastore has scored four goals (three of which have been superb efforts), contributed two assists and earned a penalty. PSG have won all four and drawn one. Pressure? What pressure?



More significant than the stats, though, is the sublime manner in which he has left his mark.




High praise indeed...


Pastore hasn't dominated matches. Indeed, he has sometimes faded for lengthy spells or surprisingly misplaced simple passes. But he produces at least one moment of brilliance in every game. The buzz of anticipation that fills the Parc des Princes every time he has the ball is a throwback to the days when Ronaldinho charmed the home fans.




Ronaldinho, by the way, is one player Pastore has not been compared to in recent days. Michel Platini has likened the former Huracan man to Zinedine Zidane, ex-France player Jean Michel Larqué sees similarities with Platini himself, coach-turned-pundit Rolland Courbis compared Pastore to PSG legend Rai, while Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini insisted his protégé is "far better than Cesc Fabregas".




A bit of Bergkamp, too


I will throw my hat in to the ring too by adding Dennis Bergkamp to that list. As somebody who has spent far too much time watching videos of the Dutch star, I soon noted a resemblance in the way Pastore sees the game so quickly and releases passes with such speed, elegance and precision. Football suddenly looks simple when he has the ball.




I had the pleasure of commentating PSG's game at Montpellier on Saturday, and Pastore's brilliant volleyed goal at the Stade de la Mosson immediately triggered memories of Bergkamp's first-ever goal for Arsenal against Southampton in 1995; they both prepared themselves in the same way, struck the ball with the same smooth, effortless motion, and both made something extremely difficult look frighteningly easy.




Early days yet


These kinds of comparisons are of course premature and inappropriate. Pastore has so far achieved little and does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as a PSG legend like Rai after only a handful of appearances.




I therefore apologise to those who regard such talk as tripe.



But the journalists and former players making such comparisons should be allowed to get carried away just this once. It is unusual to see a player who stands out from the crowd so radiantly.






The reason so many different names have been mentioned is that Pastore does not have exactly the same qualities as anyone. He can, at times, spray the ball about with the vision and authority of a Rai and a Fabregas. He occasionally jinks in and out of tackles in the style of Zidane, or surges in to the box with the grace and power of a young Bergkamp. Yet he can also drift out of games and make amateurish mistakes.



In other words, Pastore still has a long way to go, but the raw ingredients are all there -and the scariest part for the rest of Ligue 1 is that he is getting better game by game.




His devastating two-goal display against Montpellier had team-mates and opponents swooning over his skills. "He's just fantastic to watch and he moves with so much elegance," said PSG's Blaise Matuidi. Younes Belhanda, meanwhile, appeared to be struck by the realisation of just how far he has to go to reach Pastore's level. "He's world class," enthused the Montpellier creator. "His movement, the way he carries the ball, his first touch, his left foot, his right foot, his vision... I've got a lot to learn."



Lyon won't afford Pastore quite so much respect on Sunday, but Rémi Garde will surely take his troops north for the top-of-the-table encounter with an anti-Pastore plan up his sleeve. Paying too much attention to the mercurial No. 27 will surely play in to the hands of Ménez and Nene, but does Rémi Garde's team have a choice? Give Pastore too much space and there is every chance that Ligue 1's new star will tear them apart.


Pastore Javier

Pastore Javier
  • Current Team: Roma
  • D.O.B.: 20/06/1989
  • Nat.: Argentine / Italian
  • Offensive Midfielder

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