Whatever happened to the Javier Pastore who lit up Ligue 1 in those first three months of his career at the Parc des Princes? For whatever reason the once record signing has not lived up to his extraordinary exploits in Italy where he was the darling of the Palermo faithful in Sicily. But, is he entirely to blame? Not exactly.
His performance on Sunday against Ajaccio was one of his better days I felt. He linked up well with Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, being the architect of a number of chances that could have seen us take the lead. Laurent Blanc made a bold call by opting to drop Ezequiel Lavezzi to bring in Cavani and keep ‘El Flaco’ on the left wing. But, with us trailing 1-0 at home thanks to a stunning goal from Benoit Pedretti, Pastore was brought off for his Argentine compatriot and was roundly booked in the process. Although I agree the injection of pace was needed and Blanc’s call was correct, the boos for JP were not warranted whatsoever.
It is evident that Pastore is not a winger and never will be. During his early days in Paris, Antoine Kombouare got the best out of him by playing off the striker with a winger either side to support. It worked an absolute treat, Nene was thriving, Jeremy Menez was showing his capabilities, Kevin Gameiro was scoring goals and Pastore was the star of the show. But a defeat to Dijon in the Coupe de la Ligue in October 2011 unsettled the rhythm somewhat and those spectacular performances became somewhat of a blur. Is that a coincidence? Maybe, but it certainly halted the feel good factor in the camp at the time and ended up contributing to Kombouare’s fate two months later. Nevertheless, ‘Flaco’ netted 13 league goals that season but managed nine less last campaign.
Pastore has been played in a number of positions ever since. Wide left, wide right, central midfield, a false number nine and even as a striker on his own. Yet, for whatever reason he still cannot capture a consistent run of form that we know he is capable of. He has extraordinary ability, an elegant style and is a joy to watch when he is oozing confidence. But, as I said he is not a winger and we probably will not see the best of him again until he is played just off the striker which looks doubtful now Cavani and Zlatan form their partnership.
He is only 24, the best years are ahead of him and I hope it is in a Parisien shirt. He has never hidden his desire to return to Italy one day and if that is to happen he will prosper there once again. But in the meantime he cannot afford to feel sorry for himself. He can have such a big part to play this season, no doubt about it. His performance against Barcelona in the Camp Nou last season was a master class and we hope he recreates many more of those performances in the forthcoming months.
It is a challenge for him to rediscover his best form, as it is for Blanc to get the best from him. If he can do what Carlo Ancelotti failed to do during his tenure then that will be an achievement in itself.