If you were tasked with predicting the potential stars of the recent World Cup a couple of years back, chances are that Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore would have featured high on that list. Two of South America’s brightest prospects and both were snapped up by Paris Saint-Germain for around the £35m mark. Eye-watering amounts of money for a Ligue 1 side, but seen as a long-term investment by a cash rich, ruthlessly ambitious club.
Fast forward to the present and it’s safe to say that neither transfer has quite worked out as planned. Both remain on the periphery of a side that has been in a state of relentless transition, competing with Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi, who both featured in Brazil, for regular first-team football.
Pastore, three years Moura’s senior, was the first marquee signing of the club’s Qatari owners in the summer of 2011 and has since stagnated. Antoine Kombouare, Carlo Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc have all failed to maximise his undoubted potential, with the latter revealing that a lack of confidence is an enduring issue.
During his tenure, Ancelotti felt the need to air his grievances. “Pastore has disappointed me with his performances, but I expect he is disappointed with the way he’s playing too,” the Italian revealed.
Pastore made 40 appearances for PSG last season, but around half of those games he had started on the bench. His versatility has resulted in him occupying a number of positions across midfield and has proved more of a curse than a blessing, while Pastore’s record-breaking transfer fee is often used as a stick to beat him with.
It is also a major stumbling block with regards to securing a move elsewhere, along with his substantial wages. But despite this, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have all registered recent interest.
Lucas was the revelation of the 2011 Under-20 South American Championship, scoring a hat-trick in the 6-0 mauling of Uruguay in the final. An impressive subsequent campaign with Sao Paulo resulted in a bidding war between PSG and Manchester United in the summer of 2012, eventually moving to Paris in January 2013.
Like Pastore, he has been in and out of the side, but unlike Pastore he has not had the benefit of prior European experience. Lucas has faced a steep learning curve and conceded at the end of his first season that he was still “adapting.”
After a campaign of blowing hot and cold last year, Blanc revealed: “[Moura] is still young, but he is at a big club and he must progress quickly.” But he also added: “He is a wonderful player; very hard-working and professional. He has the correct mindset.” He was still linked with a move away from the club earlier in the summer, to finance the pursuit of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, although neither move materialised.
Lucas failed to make Brazil’s World Cup squad, making the standby list but not receiving the call. Having recently turned 22, time is on his side. He may actually benefit from not being tarnished by Brazil’s capitulation and the public outcry for a revolution in the squad. Lucas has also benefitted from Jeremy Menez’s departure to Milan by inheriting his favoured No. 7 shirt, which he wore at Sao Paulo.
Both Lucas and Pastore also started the season in the PSG side, although the return of several key players from World Cup duty may well change that. But both players have embraced the opportunity. Pastore scored a stunning solo goal in a friendly against Napoli and Lucas volleyed the opening goal in a recent 2-0 victory over Bastia.
Financial Fair Play restrictions mean that PSG must sell to buy and despite a futile attempt to fund a move for Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria this summer, either Pastore or Lucas may yet be sold in January to free up some cash. But whether they move on or remain in situ, a big season for both awaits as they struggle to justify the hype and their hefty price tags.
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