SCOUT REPORT: Javier Pastore – A good fit for Liverpool?

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Barely one month since the transfer window shut, the rumour mill is already churning out names of possible targets for the next transfer window. We take a look at one such prodigious talent, Javier Pastore.

27.06.2010, Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg, RSA, FIFA WM 2010, Argentina (ARG) vs Mexico (MEX), im Bild Carlos Salcido of Mexico vs Javier Pastore of Argentina during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. EXPA Pictures (C) 2010, PhotoCredit: EXPA/ Sportida/ Vid Ponikvar +++ Slovenia OUT +++

Early Career

Born in 1989, the Argentine started his career with Huracan, debuting against River Plate aged 18. But it was in the 2009 Clausura championship that Pastore established himself, particularly impressing in the game against River Plate in which he scored 2 goals.

Huracan ultimately finished only second that season but Pastore had made his name. Palermo beat the likes of AC Milan, United and Porto to sign Pastore for €4.7 million. He spent two seasons at Palermo, where he caught the eyes of a lot of top European clubs. But PSG won the race, signing him for €40 million where he became the first mega money signing under the new regime. Things have taken a turn for the worse for Pastore and he looks likely to be sold in the next window.

The Palermo Years

Pastore is perhaps best fit for Italian football and was excellent for Palermo. I started following him closely from the second half of his first season when he started impressing under Delio Rossi. After a rough start to Palermo’s season, Pastore and Palermo’s fortunes turned with the appointment of Delio Rossi.

In his first season Pastore played in the hole behind Edinson Cavani and Fabrizio Miccoli. Palermo were excellent that season and finished fifth that season largely thanks to excellent front trio for whom the opposing managers had no answers for. In his second season Delio Rossi used him as a trequartista in 4-4-2 diamond and a 4-3-2-1 hybrid with Ilicic morphing into a forward when needed.

PSG and the decline

The move to France seems to have come too early for the young Argentine and he never seemed to have settled in.

He made a fairly good start to the season in front of the goal and showed a fair few glimpses of why the owners parted with such a vast sum for him. His first season stats read a fairly good return of 16 goals and 8 assists in all appearances but mask the real truth.

He started that season with a bang and looked to be an excellent signing. But he just couldn’t continue in the same vein. He often faded in games for long times and didn’t look to be enjoying his football. Playing in an unfamiliar role didn’t help either and he never looked like being able to play in the rigid Christmas tree formation set by Ancelotti. Pastore looked like a player shorn of confidence.

His second season was poorer stats wise but there were glimpses of him trying to fit in and make an effort to blend in. He seemed to start to form an understanding with Veratti. Truth be said, PSG always relied on the individual brilliance of players rather than a team effort and as such their play was always disjointed and lacked fluidity.

One thing that remained consistent though out his time is that he always performed on the European stage. Watching him in the Champions League was a delight and kept reminding me of the potential that this man had.

Under the new manager Laurent Blanc who started out with a 4-4-2 formation, Pastore was initially trusted with a wide midfield role, a role in which he failed miserably. Injury coupled with a marked increase in PSG’s watchability after switching to a 4-3-3 formation with Veratti coming in seem to confirm that he no longer has a place left in the team, surely sounding curtains on his PSG career.

His time at PSG has been littered with brief purple patches and glimpses of his genius.

Style of Play

The PSG move came a little too soon for Pastore who looked such a bright spark while at Palermo.

His fleet of foot, lazy flick of the ball, masterful vision are there for all to see. Long pass, short pass, lob, chipped pass you name it and Pastore does it. He can truly pass the ball the entire 360 degrees and there are fewer players who can do that than you’d think.

Give him willing runners and he will find them all day long wherever they are. Watch him curl a pass, the type that splits the defence and then moves laterally for the runner to just take it in his stride, it is as if Pastore is teasing the defenders and making fun of them for space that they are leaving for him to pass into.

It’s not just that he does it, it’s the way he does it that makes him stand out. The weight on the pass and timing of it are just so immaculate. His excellent technique on the ball allows him to move it around with such pace and precision.

He is an excellent dribbler too. He collects the ball, looks up, drives into space, picks out a pass moves to a new pocket of space. His exquisite dribbling skills and passing ability make an excellent player in tight spaces.

He is a pure no.10. A between-the-lines kind of player who revels in playing in the hole. That’s where he is in his elements and it is his best position. Playing at the base of the midfield in Ancelotti’s “Christmas tree”, he was always going to struggle. But he has learnt from that and has become a better all-round player.

Weaknesses

Given all this copious amount of talent at his disposal it is quite sad that picking out faults in his game is just as easy.

There are large stretches of the game where he disappears completely. And I mean to a point where you actually count the number of players to make sure all 11 are still on the pitch. He just looks disinterested and bored. He is a tactical nightmare when he is in such a mood. He won’t track back properly, consistently get caught out of position, make pathetic decisions and misplace pass after pass.

He has been criticised for his lack of work ethic and industry off the ball. Although, this wasn’t always the case; Palermo were a counter attacking team and every man had to put a shift in defensively. He rarely had poor matches and was always very much at the centre of the play.

Value For Money?

He is very much an FSG type of a buy. An excellent player with oodles of talent, disillusioned with his life at the current club, looking for a fresh start and available on the cheap? Yup, fits the profile well enough.

He may find it difficult in the Premier League though as he is very lightweight and could easily get bullied off the ball. However, with the recent success of small quick players like Mata, this gamble may just be worth our while.

He looks set to be offloaded this winter as PSG seem to have lost their faith in him and the player too is looking for a fresh start. PSG seem to be looking for a replacement with rumours rife of a failed Ozil bid and Mata looking to be their winter target.

I would personally recommend a loan with an option to buy deal as it would be a win for all the parties involved. Rodgers has proven that he is capable of handling players low on confidence and of poorer work ethics and has a reasonably good chance of succeeding with Pastore.

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