After Cristian Pavón’s impressive display from the bench against Haiti, Jimmy Lee returns to Golazo to suggest that the Boca youngster is ready to supplant Ángel Di María in Argentina’s starting eleven.
Every weekend on El Doce (channel 12) in Córdoba, Argentina you can tune in to watch Fútbol Infantil, football matches with local youngsters. Every so often, one of these kids turns into a star. The three main clubs in Córdoba always have their eyes open for the bright young stars of the future that they can add to their youth systems. Many of these matches on El Doce will feature interviews with the kids after each match and ask them about their favorite teams and players.
In 2008, a then 12-year-old Cristian Pavón was featured on Fútbol Infantil. His team dominated and it was clear to everyone that Cristian was the best player on the pitch. After the match in his interview he was asked, “Who do you think you played like today?” Without hesitation, the high-pitched voice of an adolescent child said, “Like Messi.”
Fast forward ten years to May 29, 2018. Argentina is facing Haiti in the Bombonera in their send off match before the World Cup in Russia. In the 59th minute, Ángel Di María is subbed off the pitch and replaced by Boca Juniors winger, Cristian Pavón. Ten years after he said he played like Messi, he now finds himself on the pitch with the greatest of all time. This was not the first time Pavón made an appearance for the Albiceleste, but thanks to Messi injuries, it was the first time he played on the same team as Leo in an official match.
Argentina already led 2-0 thanks to two goals by Messi. Less than ten minutes after entering the pitch, Pavón found himself with the ball out wide to the left of the penalty area. He was surrounded by multiple Haitian defenders. Pavón spun to his right, kept control of the ball, crossed it over to his left, found just enough space, and riffled a pass into the box right to the feet of Messi who put his third goal into the net with ease.
One could say the move was Messi-esque. To keep control of the ball while encircled by multiple defenders was something we have seen over and over again throughout the past decade and more by La Pulga. It would have been hard for us to imagine in 2008 that this young kid from Córdoba was actually going to one day live up to his prophecy and play ‘like Messi.’
But for those who have watched Pavón grow and mature over the years, first with Talleres in Córdoba and then with Boca Juniors, moves like the one he made against Haiti to set up the Messi goal is something we have become accustomed seeing each weekend. It was not a move ‘like Messi’ it was a move like Pavón.
Asistencia de Pavón para el gol de Messi. pic.twitter.com/JtPjfe8L9I
— INFO BOCA WEB ⑫💙💛 (@InfoBocaWeb) May 30, 2018
On April 1, Boca played his former club Talleres in what at the time was a title deciding match, Pavón did exactly what he did against Haiti – he wriggled away from multiple defenders and made the perfect pass which led to the opening goal and helped Boca to victory.
Pavón led the Superliga this past season in assists and you can almost guarantee that if you ask anyone who Boca’s key player was to lead them to their back-to-back titles, everyone would say Cristian Pavón. The 22-year-old is on an upward trajectory that will surely lead him to a major club in Europe, very likely this summer.
Whenever someone asks me who a player is that they should pay attention to from Argentina at the World Cup, the obvious answer is still Messi. But that’s not what they’re asking, they want to know who the next young star is, and the answer to that question is clearly Pavón. But as a fan of the Albiceleste, I am worried that we won’t get the chance to see him shine because he will be sitting on the bench behind Ángel Di María.
El Fideo was key to Argentina’s run to the World Cup final in 2014. He is still a good player, but is also one of the most frustrating players to watch. He dribbles the ball longer than he should, his passes are off the mark or to no one in particular, and his shots are more often stopped by a fan in the stands than by the keeper.
My plea to Jorge Sampaoli is this, START CRISTIAN PAVÓN OVER DI MARÍA! The same team that finished runner up in 2014 cannot win the World Cup in 2018. Of course, Messi still needs to be the focus, but it’s time he gets a new sidekick. And in Messi’s own word’s after the victory over Haiti, “I found myself a new partner in Pavón. He is a great player.” Messi also added, “He is a different kind of player,” and someone different might be just what Argentina needs.
So again, I ask, please Jorge, on June 16th, when I wake up at the crack of dawn (6:00 am USA PST), prepare my mate, and turn on the TV, I beg of you that I will see Cristian Pavón in the starting eleven and Ángel Di María listed as one of the substitutes. Please Jorge, do the right thing.
Jimmy lived in Córdoba, Argentina as a teenager and is still an active Socio for his beloved club, Belgrano. He currently lives in Seattle, WA and loves to write about football when he has a brake from work and family. He also runs the Belgrano – English twitter account.