Cristian Pavon will turbocharge LA Galaxy's attack and also boost his hopes of eventual Europe move
After weeks of links and speculation, LA Galaxy finally have their man as they announced the loan of Boca Juniors and Argentina forward Cristian Pavon on Thursday. The deal, bringing 23-year-old Pavon to Major League Soccer for the remainder of the 2019 season, is a blockbuster for his new club given his versatility.
So what is all the fuss about?
Where is he from?
Pavon grew up near Cordoba, some 400 miles to the north east of Buenos Aires, and played for local team Talleres as a 17-year-old. He had a season with Colon of Santa Fe before joining Boca at age 19 in 2015. Over the past four years he has been a Boca regular, so important and outstanding that he forced his way into the Argentina team, making his debut in the run-up to last year's World Cup and featuring in all of his country's matches at Russia 2018.
Pavon is a winger who is well able to operate on either flank. Naturally right-footed, he can go outside on the right or seek to cut in from the left. This versatility is key as it forces indecision among opposing defenders when he drifts around the attacking third.
Even as a 17-year-old with Talleres, Pavon managed to score four times in 20 games, a ratio of goals per game that he has maintained or bettered throughout his career. It is a good return for a winger and highlights the surprising strength of his shooting.
Underpinning his goal record is sound decision-making in possession. Pavon is short and relatively slight, so does not dwell too much on the ball. At his best he consistently picks the right option and while his scoring record catches the eye, he assists more than he scores.
There is no doubt that his form has dropped off over the past year, so much that he seems surplus to requirements in a Boca side that recently qualified for the quarterfinals of the Copa Libertadores.
In large part this is surely the consequence of a reality shock. Argentina has a proud football culture, whose self-esteem has been bruised by the fact that the best players are continually sold abroad. So when a big local club have a glamorous player in the national team, there is a tendency to over-hype him.
Last year, going into the 2018 World Cup, Pavon was receiving superstar billing from the local media and was being linked with a £40 million move to Arsenal. The Argentina side, it was said, was comprised of Lionel Messi, Pavon and nine others, but that was an unrealistic expectation on a young man. The truth is that Pavon is a good player, but he does not have enough speed, trickery or physical presence to be a genuinely great one. The big question now is whether he can recover from this unwelcome discovery to have a solid career.
Where does he fit?
Pavon seemingly no longer fits in at Boca. Coach Gustavo Alfaro is less fixated on wingers than the previous manager, Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Secondly, the club are anxious to cash in and another disappointing domestic season would send his value crashing.
Bordeaux might see him as a replacement for Malcom, the Brazilian winger they sold to Barcelona a year ago. But for now, Pavon will have a chance to show his worth in MLS with the Galaxy. He'll be expected to supply Zlatan Ibrahimovic with reliable service in the box and also create havoc cutting in from wide positions.