When Ezequiel Lavezzi arrived in Paris back at the start of July 2012, he was greeted at the airport by not Parisien supporters but by a couple of Neapolitans. There he was subjected to love, affection, fondness and broad smiles on their faces as he looked through his tinted aviators, looking like a movie star. Even though he was seeking pastures new with another club, the Napoli fans adored him regardless. His swansong came in the Coppa Italia Final against Juventus where the southerners won 2-1 to claim their first major trophy since the heydays of Diego Maradona. There is no denying that Lavezzi has left modern day imprint on the club – not on the same scale as Diego – but an imprint nevertheless. Five successful years, and a new journey in France was set to begin. After a sticky start to his career in Ligue 1, the Argentine has implemented himself as one of Paris Saint-Germain’s most important players in the last three months.
It took a lot of negotiations with officials in Naples and President Aurelio De Laurentiis to get El Pocho to the Parc des Princes in the first place. He came with a hefty price tag and rightfully so for a player of his calibre and at the peak of his career. Carlo Ancelotti utilised him from the start as we thought, out on the left-hand side supporting Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whilst interchanging with the man on the opposite side. In the first league game against Lorient he showed glimpses of his capabilities but looked a little rusty, as the majority of the team did on that night with exception to Ibra who forged a comeback on his own when we were 2-0 down. Then, things started to go wrong for Lavezzi. He was sent off in Ajaccio in his second competitive outing which began to snowball a real catalogue of unfortunate circumstances for the player.
He made his comeback in the 4-1 drubbing of Dynamo Kiev in the opening Champions League game but he was to be then plagued by injury. He missed the next few weeks before coming off the bench again, this time in Portugal against Porto. His night lasted just seven minutes however and had to be substituted immediately after disrupting his adductor. An angry scene entailed of him kicking violently at a water cooler in the dugout as he trotted off but you could understand his frustration. He had made his big money move and it was seemingly falling to pieces in a matter of months.
It would be over a month before we saw the tattooed battler again, making ANOTHER comeback, in ANOTHER Champions League fixture, this time at home to Dinamo Zagreb where he not only started, but completed a long overdue 90 minutes. This is where his Parisien career began to take off.
He has practically been involved in every game ever since and has not looked back. He has firmly made one of the two attacking positions in supporting Ibra his own – predominantly on the left-hand side. Although he does sometimes interchange with either Jeremy Menez or Javier Pastore when either of them is in the team, it is down the left where he feels most at home. His pace is electric, has real quick feet and is not shy to bore in on goal on his own as he proved in Serie A. He really does have the full package. Ibra clearly enjoys playing with him too. At times their interplay has been almost telepathic, as it has been with Menez, Pastore and now Lucas Moura.
Lavezzi netted his first two goals against Kiev in late November before flourishing even more so in December – perhaps his best period to date in France – with goals in three consecutive games against Porto, Evian and Valenciennes. Scoring eight goals in total, that is not a bad return for someone who was hampered with injuries at the beginning of the season.
At the moment, he is without question one of Ancelotti’s first names on his team sheet. You have to admire his work rate, dedication and desire to overcome early disappointments and implement himself as one of the team’s most important players. Napoli fans will tell you that this is no surprise to them and thankfully for us, we can start to say the same. We are seeing the real Ezequiel Lavezzi, and loving every second of it.
Keep it up El Pocho, you have been terrific!