Javier Pastore - PSG’s “Robinho”?

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Since he arrived at the Parc des Princes for a costly fee of €42million, Javier Pastore has been top news all over Europe and the progress of his big spending club has been tracked well. The Argentine arrived amid huge fanfare and a lot was expected of him upon his arrival in Paris. Despite scoring 13 goals and getting five assists, the talented 23-year old was considered to be a disappointment given his dip in form that started last October and lasted until March. Since then he has struggled to find a place for himself in Carlo Ancelotti's side and the Italian in turn has struggled to accommodate him. Could Pastore just prove to be the big name that the club needed to get through the door first to open it up to other stars or is there still room in this stellar side for the schemer?

Following his arrival from Palermo he made an immediate impact on the pitch hitting a purple patch that saw him accelerate to the top of the goalscoring charts for brief period, but it proved too difficult to maintain and the playmaker drifted into anonymity for large parts of the winter. Although he occasionally resurfaced when frequent stories of his unhappiness in Paris became regular newspaper stories, Pastore was absent on the pitch and it is something that he still has not resolved as we approach week three of the new season and have passed his one year anniversary in Ligue 1.

The Argentine is a creative midfield presence and therefore needs to be played behind the striker or in the final third of the pitch for optimum effect. For a number of reasons this is not always possible and even when given his preferred role, he likes to track back to gain control of the ball when it gets stuck in the PSG midfield. When this happens, Pastore jeopardises the link between the midfield and the attack and he often drops out of games, sometimes failing to make any impact on some matches. After his explosive start to life at the club this became a regular occurrence, at least until the business end of the season when he rediscovered some form.

One of the reasons for Pastore's anonymity at times could be the competition for places that he experiences at the club. With Nene, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Jeremy Menez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and soon to be Lucas Moura occupying the berths in the attacking third of the pitch, given the Argentine's tendency to not be able to impose himself upon matches consistently it leaves Ancelotti with a big headache with regards to where to accommodate him and if he can afford to start the enigma ahead of the others.

Ancelotti's formation is another one of those reasons. Despite his insistence that the club would move away from the rigid but disciplined 4-3-2-1 (or Christmas Tree formation), the club still find themselves lining up essentially playing with two holding midfielders even if those chosen two have attacking instincts. The position of the pair is closer to the defence than the attack so when Pastore lines up there it essentially makes him a deep-lying playmaker in the mould of an Andrea Pirlo. Except there is one problem, the Argentine and the Italian do not share the same metronomic distribution of the ball nor does Pastore possess Pirlo's ability to dominate a game. Because of that the capital club are often better served deploying the more defensive options of Blaise Matuidi, Thiago Motta or Clement Chantome or Mathieu Bodmer whom the Italian tactician has already compared to Juventus' evergreen international.

Add to this a lethargic and sometimes agitated Pastore if you watch games against opponents who set themselves up to stifle a team and you find yourself asking whether the playmaker has an attitude problem. When the going is good for the Argentine he is fantastic, the centre of all things positive, happy and confident. If not, he broods, snaps at teammates and puts pressure upon himself to take centre stage and take the opposition on alone. It is this attitude that splits opinion on Pastore. PSG fans revere him and still see him as the symbol of a new beginning for the sleeping giants. Others see him as an expensive luxury whose high price tag could have been better invested elsewhere.

Like Robinho then. Gifted, undoubtedly talented and bought for a high price, Pastore so far like the Brazilian has not been able to live up to expectations and is yet to win anything of note in his career. Yes, Robinho has had success with AC Milan in his post-Manchester City days but in a league that is fast becoming one of Europe's least attractive competitions and if compared to people's high expectations following his move to Real Madrid from Santos, he has never realised his true potential. He also took the seemingly easy option of being loaned back home to Brazil when the going got tough. General consensus about current prodigy Neymar is that he is living in a comfort zone at current club Santos where his every action is celebrated. In this sense the same can be said of Pastore currently, where despite not always being at the top of his game, his every touch and gesture is met with rapturous and unwarranted applause.

The Argentine was bought in to become the face of the project, a symbol of the new PSG, a statement to European rivals of Leonardo and Qatar Sports Investments' ambitions for the club. So far despite exciting the fans' imagination, he has failed to deliver the goods on the pitch consistently. Is it only a matter of time before he is forced to play a deep position that doesn't suit him and then perhaps even faces losing his place in the first team. Is he talented enough to merit a place in this PSG side? Absolutely. But is talent always given the patience it needs to ensure that it is ultimately recognised when large amounts of money are involved? Sadly the odds are not stacked in his favour.

ESPN Conversations