Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

The Serie A more than any league in the modern era has been graced with phenomenally creative talents that combined artistry with athleticism to put beautiful in “the beautiful game” with Fantasisti such as Zico Baggio, Boban, Rui Costa, Recoba, Zidane and Kaká  jinxing, shimmying or feinting their way into the hearts of every calcio fan.

The evolution of football in the 21st century has led to a more physical game with less importance being placed on the trequartista, however Palermo’s argentinian Javier Pastore is showing that old school elegance and grace is coming back into fashion.

Pastore’s swift rise is the template upward curve every aspiring star wishes for; starting in the Argentinian second division with his hometown club Talleres to Maradona’s 2010 World cup squad in three years…and by the looks of it he’ll be one of the most sought after commodities of the 2011 summer transfer season as well.

After beginning his playing career at his boyhood club Talleres, he was soon spotted as a huge talent and taken up to the top tier by Huracán. – a traditional club that’s not necessarily renowned for their trophy cabinet but highly regarded for their style of play. In his debut season there he became an important figure, featuring 30 times in the 2008-2009 season and scoring 8 goals. Not a bad return for any midfielder, particularly as he ended up as the teams’ top scorer. The fact that he was a player in his debut top division season as well made the achievement even more impressive.

His finest moment in Argentina was playing a leading role in Huracán’s 4-0 win over River Plate; their biggest in sixty years with two cracking solo goals. Inevitably the big boys started to send out scouts to watch the attacking midfielder, yet despite some of Europe’s elite; Milan, Chelsea, Porto and Manchester United trying to prise him away, Pastore opted for ambitious Sicilian side Palermo. Who knows, maybe he just thought the pink suited his complexion better.

“The thing is that at clubs like Manchester United there are a lot of great players, and they are all internationals. I know that if I moved to a club like that, I’d have to wait to get my chance to play.” Javier Pastore 2008.

At Palermo he didn’t have to wait long before getting his chance to turn some heads either. After taking only 2 points from tough games against Roma, Lazio and Fiorentina – teams that the tifosi, Zenga and Zamparini all expected more from – Palermo were languishing three points above the drop zone with Juventus up next.

On 4th October 2009, the pressue was on, nerves in the air, tackles flying around and old hands like Simplicio and Miccoli trying best they could match the Old Lady. They needed something special and then in the 37th Pastore shrugged Melo aside and assisted Cavani for the opening goal.

Palermo finished comfortable 2-0 victors and a star was born. Everyone had witnessed the introduction of El Flaco, his -now trademark- break with the ball to convert defence to attack…and his ability to rise to the occasion and perform when it mattered most.

He went on to finish the season as a regular in the team playing 37 times and despite offering periods of brilliance and cute touches to please the crowd, he was far from the finished article with only three goals to his name.

His fast rise to recognition was complete when he was chosen ahead of his idol Juan Roman Riquelme for Maradona’s Argentinian squad for the 2010 world cup making two substitute appearances against Greece and Mexico.

This season Pastore has developed his game not only physically but also mentally to become one of the standout performers in serie A. Whilst many players came back from the World Cup jaded and off form, Pastore has hit the ground running looking faster, fitter and most importantly more assured on the ball. Indeed the sales of Cavani and Simplicio – two of Palermo’s better performers from last year – have galvanised the Argentinian into becoming the teams’ leader and the epicentre of every move along with his new sidekick Joseph Ilicic. This point can be easily exemplified by the fact that the ex-Huracan midfielder has already scored more goals (4) in nine appearances this year than he did throughout the whole of last season. Can he go on to become one of the worlds’ greats?

Maurizio Zamparini certainly has faith in the player “He is the new Zinedine Zidane. He is very strong and complete, within two years he’ll be worth as much as Lionel Messi.” Whilst the Chairman might be slightly moving into hyperbolic territory here – he does have a penchant for flamboyant statements – he’s not completely off with his comparison.

Both players have that innate ability to float around making everything around them slow down…yet the way Pastore glides past challenges on the pitch with effortless ease leads me to believe he’s playing style is a hybrid between two other playmakers: Manuel Rui Costa and Ricardo Kaká. In fact watching Pastore score his first goal for Argentina in an unofficial match against Catalunya, there was an unmistakeable similarity between himself and the former brazilian King of Milan.

Uncanny isn’t it? The way this Palermo team has been set up in a Christmas tree formation with the greatest threat coming from the two men playing behind the striker echoes the famous Milanese side of 2007 that won the champions league…and Pastore – much like Kaká for that team- is the teams heartbeat.

However Pastore’s manner of approaching the game does have nuances from the Brazilians physical and direct style, although they both rely on speed and power to get through players, Kaká developed to play closer to the opposition box and carried a greater goal threat, whereas the Palermo star has more of a visceral awareness of his surroundings that combined with his technical grace lend more readily to a comparison with Rui Costa.

One of the argentinian’s biggest assets is his ability to sew together both parts of the team, turning defense into attack with remarkeable speed. This talent is one of the biggest reasons why Pastore has been such an instant success in Italy and why he’s performed so well in the bigger games.

Finally one of Pastore’s most overlooked weapons is his ability to  use long range passes and through balls to create spaces and bring other players into the attacks.

It is perhaps this last ability of Pastore, that provides the best argument for his similarity to Rui Costa as well as showcasing the young argentinian’s old school number 10 attributes.

Standing at 6ft 2, the Argentinean’s never had problems getting past players in the Primera Division or Serie A so far. And with some hard time in the gym (something that is already evident between his first and second seasons at Palermo) Pastore no doubt has the potential to become a rampaging athletic powerhouse forward like Kaká or Ronaldo in the future. Something tells me though that this talent would rather play the game with the balletic poise and grace that  has turned so many heads already and stay true to his nickname El flaco.

Qasa Alom

Broadcast Journalist. Writer for Serieaweekly, subtitled online or anyone else daft enough to want me. These are my thoughts (even the clever ones)

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