As the first marquee signing of the Qatari reign at PSG, Javier Pastore knows the club better than some of his superstar teammates, but has also undergone the most remarkable dip and then soar in form during his three or so years at the capital. In a rare occurrence, Javier Pastore allowed a team of Get French Football News reporters, headed by Antoine Kornprobst, to catch up with him as we asked wide-ranging questions about Leonardo, his relationship with Laurent Blanc, Lionel Messi and much more.
As one of the first players in the QSI era, did you think it was a massive risk joining?
At that moment in time, I can see how some people might have thought it was a risk, when I arrived, the project was just starting but I felt very secure and good about it after meeting with Leonardo and Nasser (Al Khelaifi).
Talk to us about your relationship with former PSG Sporting Director Leonardo…
Leonardo is very smart and a very nice human being, he is also a very hard worker and I still maintain a good relationship with him to this day. Of course he was important in my decision to join PSG. I remember, after a match I was playing in Italy at the time, Inter Milan vs Palermo in the Italian Cup, he came to me especially to congratulate me for my efforts. After that, we had telephone conversations and he explained the project to me in some detail.
Do you think he might return to his post as PSG Sporting Director?
I cannot tell you that! And I really don’t have any idea if he might or not and it is not my business to think about that anyway.
What self-assessment would you make of your performances in your 3 and a half seasons at PSG so far? You have admittedly had some high and low points and the French media has often been quick to criticise you. How have you been influenced by the press since arrived at PSG?
The first year was very good for me as I scored many goals and I felt that I had been important for the team. After that, for various reasons I was not able to have a good pre-season until last year (2014). I began to lose my greatest physical attributes and generally it was not a good period for me. Now, I believe I am very strong again and with more power and desire than ever before. This year I feel much better and am more complete as a player and I am going through a good period.
I try to stay focused on my work and on the team, but of course I love to make people as happy as possible. It is truly a great feeling when people around you are pleased with the work that you are doing. Sometimes, I have had to put more focus into habituating myself with certain tactics at the expense of simply playing football more than I would have liked, but I have to do what the coach asks me to do. I think that both Laurent Blanc and Carlo Ancelotti have enabled me to learn how to be more useful for the team as a whole.
I also must not forget about the impact that Antoine Kombouaré had, he is someone who was very important for me when I first arrived.
The truth is that I am very happy playing in any position that the coach asks me to play. Admittedly, in certain positions, I receive more of the ball than in others.
What was it like to deal with the fans sometimes being hostile towards you during the difficult times for you in a PSG shirt?
I am attentive. I listen to them. If they are unhappy it means that I have to work even harder. I think that my relationship with the fans is great in general, I am very happy with them; they want PSG to win and for the team to play well, which is exactly what I want too.
Did something change for you this summer? Has it been hard work or did something change psychologically for you that has turned you into arguably PSG’s best player in 2014/15?
As I said, I am now physically a lot stronger and I understand that I have to work and fight for this team and for my place in it every single day, regardless of what happens off the field.
I think I have learnt mentally how to separate external factors that don’t have anything to do with my job directly and how to try to stay focused on what I need to do, to accept that things do not always work out the way you want them to. When I was younger, I was more affected by external factors than am I now.
Every day, I try to train harder and as I gain in terms of physical condition, mentally, I feel I grow stronger.
How did you live with the fact that you were not selected for the World Cup last summer?
I suffered a lot at that time but I understood that it was the manager’s right to consider that he had better options than me. That being said, of course it was a difficult time for me. The World Cup is every player’s dream. Once I understood and accepted that I was not going to be part of the team in Brazil I became the most loyal supporter of the Argentina side. Of course, the final was very difficult to watch and experience, and I remained quite sad for some time after that match.
Do you think that if you had been playing for Argentina in the World Cup final, that things might have turned out a little differently?
Who knows, but the guys did a truly great job! We were ever so close to winning the game.
And what of Laurent Blanc, are you happy under his managerial reign?
I have a great relationship with him, honestly a great one! I am trying to take on board everything that he asks me to do each game and apply it the best that I can. I am very comfortable with him as a person and as a coach.
I really do respect him a lot; he has a lot of experience. Of course, sometimes, as has been the case with other coaches, I have a different point of view to Blanc but I always do my utmost to help the team, whether that is on or off the field of play.
He is very precise with us and I cannot reiterate enough that I am very comfortable and very grateful to have him as a coach.
Are you surprised by the immense success that your former manager Carlo Ancelotti is having at Real Madrid?
I am not surprised at all! Who is going to be surprised by what he has achieved? He definitely had a positive impact on me as a player and on my career. Back then, when he was in charge, I was probably not as mature and as strong as I am today. I maintain a very good relationship with him.
Your agent spoke to us and said that he found it strange that you were not picked to play against Barcelona in the Champions League recently; did you feel your non-selection was unfair?
Of course I want to play every game, but it is not a question of it being fair or unfair, the coach wants to win as much as we all do. It was his opinion that one of my teammates could have a more positive impact on that particular game than I and he made his decision as he saw fit.
The coach always wants to win and makes decisions in order to achieve that; my response was to train even harder the next day, in fact I trained so hard that unfortunately I got an injury!
Do you want to sign a contract extension with PSG? Your agent tells us something is slowing the negotiations down?
I am in love with France and with PSG, and my relationship with Nasser Al Khelaifi is exceptional. Marcelo Simonian’s (his agent) relationship with Nasser and the rest of the PSG representatives is just as good.
We are not going to speculate about it, but we would like to reach an agreement that both parties find fair and just. Sometimes situations like this are easy and sometimes they are not, but that’s life.
Do you prefer to be behind a main striker (4-2-3-1) or to play as a more central midfielder in a 4-3-3?
I can play and I want to play wherever the coach thinks that I can most help the team. I have now become very comfortable in the 4-3-3 setup as a central midfielder as well.
You are known for your incredible elegance and class on the ball, but what is your favourite skill to practice on the training ground? Roulettes? Cruyff turns?
I have never really thought about it. I want to be as efficient as possible on the pitch, I never intend to practice these skills with a view to implementing them in a match, and I always improvise with each situation that comes my way. I always try to do my best for the team, it is a great feeling when you score but I am also very happy when my teammates score. Right now, I am often playing behind 3 attacker so I have to work more to provide for the team.
If I see a teammate who has taken up a better position than me I will always choose to pass the ball because my main objective is to win the match not to score.
Did you know that a group of PSG supporters have created a movement called “Pastorismo”? It is a group of fans who want to portray their love for your signature skill moves, like the “caño” and the “petit pont” and your elegant passing style, prioritising beautiful football over scoring goals. Have you got anything to say about this?
No I haven’t heard about it, but it sounds incredible! I want to find out more about now though!
Some rapid-fire questions about your teammates at PSG now…
Can Lucas Moura and Marco Verratti become some of the best players in the world?
Of course they can! Lucas has the speed, power, and technical ability. He is a top player and he will undoubtedly become even better. As for Marco, he is incredible. He will become one of the best players in the world. He is already an unbelievable player and person.
Your views on Ibrahimovic, as a man rather than as a player?
He is a great guy and is always very nice to me! He is very witty and is always making me laugh. Honestly, the squad in general is great.
Who is the funniest character in the dressing room?
Marco (Verratti). He is a great guy and seems to have a very good relationship with everybody in the team.
Who jokes the most?
Pocho (Ezequiel Lavezzi), he is always in a good mood, joking around.
Who’s the quietest?
Edinson Cavani, he loves to stay home and relax a lot.
Who’s the loudest?
David Luiz, he is an incredible guy. Always making us laugh and doing amusing things.
Who are your best friends in the team and why?
I think have a good relationship with the whole team, but I have special relationships with Lavezzi, Verratti, Maxwell and Motta. Above all though, Sirigu is like a brother to me, I have spent a lot of time with him in recent years.
What do you still want to achieve in your career?
Right now, I want to win the Champions League with PSG. Above all, I want the Champions League.
Will PSG win Ligue 1 this season?
Of course, we are going to win it!
Is the PSG team more motivated when they play in the Champions League than in Ligue 1?
We want to win every single match that we play!
Do PSG need to sign more players in order to win the Champions League?
When I become the coach of PSG, then I will think about it! (he laughs) Right now I don’t know, it is not my job. I think that with these players we can win everything.
Is there any former PSG player in years gone-by that you admire and have looked to emulate in your career?
I admire Ronaldinho.
Are you scared of Chelsea?
Chelsea is a great team but we have already shown that we can beat them. Someone like Mourinho, who won everything deserves my admiration and my respect. My goal against Chelsea was great (last year in the Champions League first leg at the Parc des Princes), I really enjoyed that moment but it was not enough in the end!
Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi missed the winter training camp in Marrakech, how important are they to PSG?
Both of them are top players and would be an important part of any team in the world.
How important is Marcelo Simonian to you?
He has been and is very important in my career, he is like a father to me and also my friend and agent. We have a great relationship and we always take the big decisions together.
Would you like Messi to sign to PSG? Have you ever talked to him about it?
We have never talked about it! Of course I would like to play with Messi though…
What do you do to relax when you are not playing football?
Paris is incredibly beautiful! There is plenty of culture here and a variety of different things to do. I do also love spending time at home with my family.
We understand that you’re going to be a father soon. Congratulations! A personal question, but have you had any thoughts as to what you might call him if it is a boy or she if it is a girl? And will you want them to play football?
Apparently it is a she! I think I would prefer that she does not go on to play football… (he laughs)