The Prince of the Parc is back

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

John Berry/Getty ImagesJavier Pastore has improved recently on a poor season.

In the space of just three days, Javier Pastore has gone from pariah to prince at Paris Saint-Germain, thanks to a star cameo against AC Ajaccio in Ligue 1 and then a key role in his side's progression to the Coupe de la Ligue semi-finals at the expense of Girondins de Bordeaux. After a difficult 2012-13 season, the Argentine has become a peripheral figure since the start of the current campaign thanks to some woefully inept performances.

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But just when it appeared that everybody at PSG was ready to give up and perhaps cut their losses with the 24-year-old, Pastore comes back from the dead in spectacular style.

Starting in Corsica last Saturday, El Flaco was thrown on by coach Laurent Blanc with less than 20 minutes remaining in the hope that the capital club's much-maligned star could rediscover his mojo. Although it was not a superlative display from the enigmatic playmaker, doing little more than providing one moment of magic, that bit of wizardry was enough to indicate that a change in fortune for Pastore was around the corner.

His sublime piece of footwork and chipped cross into the penalty area found the head of Zlatan Ibrahimovic; the Swede's knock-down was met with a diving header by the brave Blaise Matuidi to secure the points in a 2-1 win. The passage of play was a throwback to when Pastore first arrived in Paris and was temporarily the darling of Ligue 1, wowing crowds for the most part of his first year in France in the 2011-2012 campaign.

Back then, he was undoubtedly PSG's top dog and was central to the plans of first Antoine Kombouare and then Carlo Ancelotti after the Frenchman was harshly dismissed. But now, after a difficult 2012-2013 season, there is no doubting that Ibrahimovic is the main attraction at the Parc des Princes.

Moved into his preferred number 10 position for the 3-1 win over Bordeaux on Tuesday, Pastore hinted at a bright future alongside the Swede with a superlative display. The 13-time capped Argentine international, who had no goals or assists to his name in any competition this season prior to the match, scored PSG's opener on the stroke of halftime with a well-hit low shot from an excellent Lucas Moura run and pass.

Then, with five minutes of the 90 remaining and Bordeaux level thanks to Andre Biyogo Poko's avoidable (from a PSG point of view) equaliser, the man from Cordoba turned provider. His pass for Adrien Rabiot's goal to make it 2-1 was sensational, picking out the 18-year-old with brilliant vision and a deft chipped pass.

It was vintage Pastore, but he wasn't finished yet. Just three minutes later, he received the ball outside of the area once again and this time picked out Matuidi. Although the ball found its way to the French international via Edinson Cavani, El Flaco claimed his second assist of the night. His teammates' reactions in celebration suggest that they were as surprised as Pastore at his explosion in form, but for coach Blanc it will feel like vindication.

Since the start of the season, the Frenchman has argued that the Argentine is an important player to the side, but was clutching at straws in praising Pastore's superior fitness as his rationale for continuing to include the midfielder despite his poor form. Le President eventually had to admit defeat and bench the 43 million euro man, but come Sunday, that will now prove extremely difficult.

Prior to his performance against Bordeaux, speculation was mounting that PSG might have accepted a loan offer for Pastore in a bid to revitalise him and rediscover his early form. Speaking after the match though, the PSG star insisted that he wants to force his way back into Blanc's plans.

"The January transfer window does not concern me," he told Le Parisien. "The Coach and the President have said that they're relying on me.

"I feel good at PSG. Of course, the situation is not easy, but that's because it's the first time that I haven't played.

"Obviously, I would like to play more."

Pastore will almost certainly get that wish starting this weekend at home to Nantes, but the big dilemma for Blanc now is where to deploy him.

It is no coincidence that such an accomplished display came when played in his preferred advanced role in the absence of two of PSG's three regular starting central midfielders. Matuidi and Thiago Motta started the cup clash on the bench, and in order to best accommodate Pastore, one of those two or Italian international Marco Verratti will have to make way.

The other possibility is that he takes Ezequiel Lavezzi's role on the left side of the front three, a position he has played before but one that also does not come naturally. Doing so also adds competition to an already overcrowded position, with compatriot Lavezzi, Brazilian Lucas Moura and France's Jeremy Menez all vying for the same spot.

It is a pleasant headache for Blanc though, and Pastore's re-emergence negates the need to dip into this month’s transfer market for a creative midfielder at least for now.

Recent reports have linked PSG with bids for the likes of Juventus' Paul Pogba and Chelsea duo Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, although two of the three would supposedly be with summer moves in mind. However, with an in-form Pastore, the French champions could feasibly go the rest of the season without having to make any major personnel changes in the January transfer window -- the exception being the need to buy some cover at right-back with Christophe Jallet out injured following surgery.

For Pastore, it is crucial that he now does not lose his current confidence. The playmaker is a fragile character, but he has the support of the capital club's owners and fans because of his status as PSG's first major signing under the ownership of Qatar Sports Investments back in 2011. That will be evident once again on Sunday and he must not take that for granted.

If he can harness that confidence and begin to thrive once again as the Prince of the Parc, then his future at PSG may once again appear bright.

A late dash for a place in Argentina's World Cup squad might not be too ambitious after all.

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