With the Javier Pastore transfer discussions heating up, all sorts of articles are coming out arguing for and against Chelsea purchasing the Palermo playmaker. We're hearing all about why Pastore won't succeed in England, or why he will, which is a little bit odd to be because last I checked we're living in a world where the time machine hasn't been invented*.
Since we can probably assume that the opinions of random football writers aren't decrees sent down from the heavens, I think we can also happily discard phrases like 'Pastore will certainly fail in England because he's too skinny' or 'Pastore's passing will definitely fix Fernando Torres'. There's no such thing as certainty in sport, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is probably mental. And I know that sounds like pedantry, but I've always felt that you shouldn't listen to people who aren't aware that a belief, no matter how tightly held, is not a fact.
Anyway. I'm sure you didn't click on the link to read a philosophical discussion about the pitfalls of writing about football as though one is omniscient. Let's take a look at some of the arguments that have Pastore as a ready-made flop after the jump.
Physicality. There's a reason Pastore is known as 'El Flaco'. He stands at 187cm (6'2") tall and weighs a less-than-whopping 75kg (165lbs). Obviously, that makes for a very slightly-built man. This has an effect on his style of play, but it's not obvious that it has one on the level of said play.
Yes, I know, the Premier League is a physical place. Little guys tend to get bullied. Arsenal's issues are often used to illustrate this - people say that the club is simply too small to succeed in the bruising world of the Premier League. This might be true. For their defence. Last I checked, Arsenal tend to do just fine on the attack, and Barcelona's collection of football-playing midgets demolished the English champions pretty effectively last May, too. Why Pastore's build would absolutely scupper any hope of Pastore succeeding is rather beyond me. Would I prefer that he be as quick and nimble as he is with the strength of Didier Drogba? Of course. That doesn't mean I don't like him plenty right now.
Serie A. Apparently, players from Italy don't do well when moving over to the Premier League.
- Consistency. This one seems reasonable enough. Pastore has too many games where he seems to switch off - something you don't see if all you're doing is looking at highlight videos. If that continues, he could completely fail to realise his massive talent. Of course, said inconsistently might evaporate if he's played on a truly competitive team with world-class coaching. I think it's a concern, but not a major one.
- Tactical Fit. Chelsea do not field a trequartista. Pastore is one, and he doesn't have the versatility to play at a top level out wide or deeper. Instead, he's simply very very good at playing at the tip of the diamond or in the hole. But one would have to imagine that a club acquiring a 22-year-old potential megastar would make sure that the team is constructed in a way that maximises his talents. After all, he'd be around for the long haul. The veterans will not.
Could Pastore flop in the Premier League? Sure he could. Switching teams and leagues is a difficult process. He might get homesick. He might get injured. He might simply not be good enough (though I doubt it). He might get run over by Michael Essien riding an super-charged mobility scooter, or shot by Ashley Cole. But the fact of the matter is that he appears to be an elite midfielder at the domestic and international level, and anyone saying he's a guaranteed bust is out of their minds (as is anyone saying he's a guaranteed success, incidentally).
That's not to say you can't question whether he'd be worth the insane price tag Palermo have slapped on him, of course - there are different levels of risk we should be willing to accept, and people will evaluate said risk in different ways. I like Pastore enough that I think he's a worthwhile purchase at around €35M. Many people do not. As with most arguments, it's perfectly possible to argue each side in an intelligent manner (or fake it, if you're me). Just watch out for the folks who know what they say is truth.
For my part, I'd expect Pastore to do well. Talent tends to find a way.
*Actually, I sometimes like to think of the rest of the football-writing universe as a collection of soothsayers who just do this football lark as a hobby while they're reading entrails to figure out next week's winning lottery ticket or something. Based on a large body of their work, there appears to be a large colony of wizards operating football websites powered wholly by dark and forbidden arts:
Editor: Will Javier Pastore do well in England?
Writer: Hold on, where's Saturn?
Editor: Don't know. It's cloudy**.
Writer: Damn. I'm on a deadline. Fetch the knife, would you?
**Yes, I know that's not how it works. Don't email me about it.
PS: If you're having a bad day, watch that video.