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Why Javier Pastore Will Spend 4 More Seasons at PSG

Jonathan Johnson@@Jon_LeGossipFeatured ColumnistOctober 13, 2015

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 22:  Javier Pastore of Paris Saint-Germain celebrates his goal during the French  Ligue 1 between Paris Saint-Germain FC and EA Guingamp at Parc Des Princes on september 22, 2015 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images)
Xavier Laine/Getty Images

The 2014-15 season proved to be the making of Javier Pastore with Paris Saint-Germain.

After an encouraging debut 2011-12 campaign in France, in which the Argentina international scored 13 Ligue 1 goals and provided five assists, El Flaco only managed five more goals and laid on 11 more in Le Championnat over the next two terms.

Statistically speaking, the 2013-14 season was Pastore’s nadir, with just one Ligue 1 strike and three assists to his name and a succession of invisible performances.

The 26-year-old’s form was so disappointing that he was a regular on the PSG substitutes' bench and he dropped completely off the international radar with Argentina.

Michel Euler/Associated Press

However, an excellent display—including a goal—in a 3-1 win away at Girondins de Bordeaux in the Coupe de la Ligue was the first sign of life from Pastore in a second half of the 2013-14 campaign that would see him regain some traction.

A rare headed goal in the 1-1 league draw away at AS Monaco followed, as well as his famous sublime solo effort in the 3-1 home win over Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League.

Three assists in PSG’s final two games of the term—wins over Lille OSC away and Montpellier HSC at home—suggested a change in fortune was just around the corner.

That proved to be the case, as Pastore went on to enjoy arguably his best season in Paris so far—albeit not statistically—playing a major role as Les Parisiens completed an unprecedented domestic clean sweep and racking up five goals and 10 assists in Ligue 1 alone.

Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press

The South American’s impressive rebirth at Parc des Princes rightly earned him an international recall with La Albiceleste, and he ultimately went on to play a starring role in this summer’s Copa America.

Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press

Gerardo Martino’s men went all the way to the final in Chile but eventually suffered an agonising defeat to the hosts.

Before Pastore left Paris for the tournament, PSG ended months of speculation over the gifted playmaker’s future by proudly announcing that he had extended his contract with the club until 2019.

The deal has an option for an additional year, which would keep the capital club’s No. 27 there until 2020.

Pastore was as delighted as PSG were by the news and spoke of his happiness at extending his stay at Parc des Princes to PSG.fr.

I am very happy to extend my contract. I have just enjoyed the best season of my career. I am very proud of this season, but I couldn't do it without my teammates, so I want to thank them and the coaching staff and all the people who work at Paris Saint-Germain, not only the eleven players who start a match, but the whole Paris Saint-Germain family. I hope to continue to win titles here and get to play a Champions League final with this team. That's my main goal now. I think we can achieve it in the years to come... and why not next year? I hope so. My goal is to win the Champions League with Paris Saint-Germain. That would be the ultimate.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was also proud of the news and expressed his delight at Pastore’s excellent 2014-15 season to PSG.fr.

Extending Javier's contract is a strong sign of confidence towards this talented player, who showed his full potential this season. He contributed greatly in the conquest of our historic quadruple. I haven't forgotten that Javier was one of the first international players to believe in our project when we took the reins of the club. We are confident that Javier Pastore will help us win many more trophies.

Despite the positivity that surrounded the news of Pastore’s contract extension, the follow-up to his sublime 2014-15 campaign has not gotten off to the smoothest of starts.

Firstly, after representing Argentina at this summer’s Copa America, El Flaco, new signing Angel Di Maria and Ezequiel Lavezzi were deprived of any sort of pre-season because of their late returns after their respective breaks.

LILLE - AUGUST 7: Rio Mavuba of Lille and Javier Pastore of PSG in action during the French Ligue 1 match between Lille OSC (LOSC) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Grand Stade Pierre Mauroy on August 7, 2015 in Lille, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

El Fideo began life at PSG with an injury, while Pastore and El Pocho had to work their way back to a suitable level of fitness before being involved in Laurent Blanc’s starting XI.

Pastore played the first half of the opening game of the Ligue 1 season, a 1-0 win away at Lille OSC, but came off at the break after struggling to keep up with the pace of his first game of any description in over a month.

It took the former Palermo man until the third match of the campaign, a 1-0 win away at Montpellier, to start again. However, he only lasted nine minutes at Stade de la Mosson before coming off injured.

Pastore did not feature for three Ligue 1 games, until a 1-1 draw away at Stade de Reims, where he played the full 90 minutes and provided a superb lofted through ball for an assist.

He then followed it up with a start and a goal in a 3-0 home win over EA Guingamp and then a pair of assists over the full 90 minutes of the 4-1 away win over FC Nantes.

PARIS - SEPTEMBER 15: Javier Pastore of PSG in action during the UEFA Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Malmo FF at Parc des Princes stadium on September 15, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Now back up to full speed, fitness-wise, and in something approaching last term’s excellent form, it is clear that Pastore’s status at PSG has changed.

Di Maria’s summer arrival has pushed his fellow Argentinian out of the regular starting XI, and El Flaco is now vying with Zlatan Ibrahimovic to play in his favoured No. 10 attacking-midfield role.

PARIS - AUGUST 16: Head coach of PSG Laurent Blanc motivate Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi of PSG before they enter the field during the French Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain FC (PSG) and GFC Ajaccio (Gazelec Ajaccio) at Parc des Princes s
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

This has not always been possible, so Pastore has had to make do with a regular berth in a midfield three as Blanc regularly rotates his squad.

The question now surrounding Pastore has gone from when a new contract will be signed, to how long PSG can keep the player before he starts to feel unhappy and interested in a move to a team that can offer him a guaranteed starting role in his favoured playmaker role.

Pastore will not leave the French capital during this season or next summer. With Ibrahimovic’s contract expiring at the end of the current campaign and the Swede unlikely to sign—or be offered—a new deal, the South American’s preferred role on the pitch will once again be free.

A Zlatan exit would make it possible for Pastore to either be deployed as part of the front three, alongside Di Maria and Edinson Cavani, or in the midfield, with licence to roam forward into the No. 10 slot behind the attacking unit.

When signing his contract extension, Pastore will have been given reassurances over his long-term future. Also, considering how this campaign has started, with a lack of pre-season preparation, injuries and fitness concerns, he has done well for himself in terms of how often he has played.

MONTREAL, QC  - JULY 30: Javier Pastore of PSG reacts during Paris Saint-Germain training session at Stade Saputo on July 30, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

The issue, though, is that Pastore will always be left out of what Blanc sees as his strongest XI until one of the regular attacking three of Ibrahimovic, Cavani and Di Maria or the midfield of Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi are unavailable.

Pastore is currently the 12th man when it comes to the biggest games. However, that will change once Ibrahimovic leaves, and that—at this time—looks like a near-certainty.

Paris Saint-Germain's newly recruited Argentinian midfielder Javier Matias Pastore gives thumbs up after a press conference on August 8, 2011 at the Parc des Princes in Paris. Pastore is one of the most coveted players in world football and his transfer t
MIGUEL MEDINA/Getty Images

Also to be taken in account when looking ahead at how much longer Pastore is likely to spend at PSG is the fact that he was the first big-name, mega-money player to arrive in Paris for the Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) era.

It is logical that he will, if not be the last to leave, then at least see it through to the realisation of its ultimate goal—Champions League success.

That continental success could come as soon as this term, but it also could take the next three or four seasons—covered by Pastore’s latest contract—to come to fruition.

Speaking with L’Equipe (h/t ESPN FC’s Ian Holyman) back in September of last year, after a positive start to the 2014-15 campaign, the Argentinian admitted he has made a promise to PSG president Al-Khelaifi that he will help bring the Champions League trophy to Paris before leaving:

I've always been fortunate that other clubs want to buy me, but I told Nasser the day I signed my PSG contract: 'I will stay here until we win the Champions League.' I gave my word, and I intend to keep it. The way football is means I could be forced to leave before that happens, but it's not my main idea.

One of the faces of the project, Pastore’s image has developed over the past few years—notably last season. Now El Flaco is on a similar level as the likes of the capital club’s star players such as Ibrahimovic, Cavani, Marco Verratti, Thiago Silva and Blaise Matuidi.

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 22: Javier Pastore of PSG celebrates his goal during the French Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain FC (PSG) and EA Guingamp at Parc des Princes stadium on September 22, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty I
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Pastore has already proved his staying power by remaining at Parc des Princes despite two very tough and demoralising campaigns after his debut term. The player also appears to be very happy in Paris, with no desire to move on and a young family that is settled in the French capital.

PSG’s supporters adore him, more so than ever before, and the majority who stuck by him through thick and thin are benefitting from his improved form as much as the player himself. The waif-like magician is also a big hit with the French press.

Although it is a difficult moment for Pastore with PSG at present, the playmaker is still playing regularly enough to remain satisfied.

With his future secured until at least 2019 and things likely to change over the next 12 months, with an Ibrahimovic departure probable and coach Blanc’s status past the end of this season also unclear, the chances are that Pastore will not be out of the regular starting XI for long.

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 30:  Marco Verratti of Paris Saint-Germain celebrate his goal with Marquinhos and Javier Pastore (L) during the UEFA Champions League between Paris Saint-Germain FC and FC Barcelona at Parc Des Princes on September 30, 2014 in Pa
Xavier Laine/Getty Images

As the player admitted to L’Equipe and hinted to PSG.fr, his future will be dictated by the French giants’ progress on the continental stage.

PSG could win their first-ever Champions League crown this season, but before that, they have to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1994-95. Only then can Pastore and his teammates start dreaming about getting to the final and winning the whole thing.

That ultimate goal could take the next four seasons to happen—perhaps even longer. One thing is for sure, though: Pastore will remain in Paris until that goal is finally realised.

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