Javier Pastore: Star signings helped me
Javier Pastore has welcomed the arrival of a host of star players to Paris Saint-Germain, saying it has eased the burden of pressure on the Argentine's shoulders.
After the slight but highly skilled midfielder, 24, disembarked at the Parc des Princes from Palermo in summer 2011, the €42 million fee PSG had paid for him appeared to weigh heavy around his neck during his maiden Ligue 1 campaign. The subsequent purchases of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Lucas and Edinson Cavani, among others, have ensured the limelight is now shared, and Pastore told Red Bull's magazine The Red Bulletin he is feeling the benefit.
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"With the players that have come in, the pressure is no longer only on me. People aren't only looking at me now. There are great players who have also been bought for a lot of money. It's better for me to have less responsibility. Other players have the burden. I'm calmer, that's certain. When the pressure is shared on the shoulders of your team-mates, it's better."
Pastore has already been singled out for praise by new PSG coach Laurent Blanc after impressing the former Bordeaux boss with his physical condition, and has started both competitive games for the Ligue 1 champions this season. The sparkling form he had shown to forge his reputation at Palermo had already started to return towards the end of the 2012-13 campaign in which he helped PSG to their first French title since 1994 and contributed to their run to the Champions League quarter-finals where they went out valiantly to Barcelona.
The bullish displays against the Catalans hinted at the massive potential of the squad, but Pastore acknowledged he and his team-mates all too often had difficulty in raising their game against less exalted adversaries.
"We've proved that we have the ability to play those sorts of matches. Against big teams, in general, we've always played well. We're better. I don't know if it's a problem, but it's something that needs fixing. When we play against a small team, we have a hard time finding motivation, whereas we need to play in the same way all the time."
Having featured alongside Lionel Messi for his country and being now well-used to the cluster of stars in the PSG dressing room, Pastore is unlikely to be overawed in the same way summer addition Lucas Digne was when he joined the first team for training late last month after his estimated €13 million move from Lille.
"Of course, at the start, I was a little impressed by them. It's normal when you're in front of great players like that, but they put me at ease," the full-back told L'Equipe. "What surprised me most is the professionalism of these great players. They go looking for perfection everywhere. Some of them say they're going to rely on their talent, but in fact, they work all the time."
The up-and-coming 20-year-old, who made his France Under-21 debut in Tuesday's goalless draw in Germany, signed a five-year deal with the French champions, suggesting the club see him as a long-term replacement for Maxwell, 31.
The Brazilian was selected for last Friday's season opener at Montpellier, and capped a flawless individual display with his team's equaliser in a 1-1 draw. Having also proved a reliable performer last season, the former Ajax, Inter Milan and Barcelona left-back is a formidable obstacle to the continuation of the stunning progress Digne has made in the last year. However, the youngster is unperturbed at the prospect of facing up to the demands of playing for a Ligue 1 heavyweight.
"There's always competition at a big club. If I didn't want that, I shouldn't have come to Paris. The competition with Maxwell is healthy. What's more, he's a great bloke. We both work hard, and we'll see what happens after that," said Digne, who has discussed his position with Blanc. "He told me that I was in competition for a place, and that the best would play. It's up to me to earn playing time."