Argentinian football has a long and storied history of producing talented young players who are forged in domestic competition before going on to star in European football.
From battle-hardened defenders like Roberto Ayala and Daniel Passarella to classy midfielders like Fernando Redondo and Javier Mascherano through to two of the best players that the world has even seen in Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi there seems to be no end to the production line of talent.
It is an economic reality for Argentinian clubs that they will lose their best players to the lure of European football. The wages and level of competition on offer domestically simply does not compare to that of Europe. The aim, therefore, is to ensure that young players are continually produced and given the platform to attract big money bids for their services.
There are of course two clubs who traditionally dominate the landscape of Argentinian football in Boca Juniors and River Plate. Both sides have had their problems in the recent past with the latter suffering the ignominy of relegation before bouncing back in to the top flight. One thing that has not changed however is their ability to produce talented young players.
One of the brightest talents in Argentinian and South American football at the moment is currently turning out in the attacking third for Boca Juniors and is on the shortlist of many European clubs, that player is Cristian Pavon.
Pavon did not however come through the youth setup at Boca and instead began his career in his native Cordoba with Talleres De Cordoba. His talent, however, was immediately evident and in 2014 he made the switch to Boca.
Originally a tricky wide player Pavon has developed the ability to play in the forward line as well as in the traditional number ten position with his explosive movement and tight control making him extremely difficult to effectively mark. We have seen him play centrally or from either flank for Boca and although he is predominantly right-footed he is effective on the left where he can cut in and shoot on goal.
Recently we have seen strong links to clubs in both England and Italy for Pavon and it seems likely that he will be the next player to net Boca a large transfer fee. What can we expect to see when he makes the move across the Atlantic though?
Ability to finish chances
Cristian Pavon is a rare commodity in young players in that he is equally capable of finishing with finesse or with power. When played on the right-hand side or in a deeper central role his powerful shot and self-confidence are a potent combination as he will cut inside the defender before unleashing powerful accurate shots at goal.
With that said he displays remarkable composure for a 21-year-old with his ability to finish chances in the penalty area.
Here we see Pavon pick up possession of the ball out on the left-hand side of the field. As the defender drops off to defend the wide area expecting Pavon to do down the outside.
Instead, Pavon is free to come back on to his stronger right foot into an area of space centrally before firing the ball past the opposition goalkeeper.
Even with questionable defending from the opposition Pavon still displays the instincts and awareness to attack the space that is open to him.
This is an entirely different type of finish that exemplifies the varied skillset that Pavon has.
The initial attacking phase is broken up by the opposition before the ball is one back quickly by the Boca player in the wide are of the field. He instantly puts in a low cross across the face of the goalkeeper and we see Pavon coming around the back of the defence to finish at the far post.
This displays his impressive movement and instincts around the opposition penalty area.
Ability in one on one situations
As befits a player whose original role was in the wide areas Pavon is extremely effective when isolated in one on one situations against a wide defender. His pace and close control give him a variety of options as he is able to attack down the outside or the inside of the defender making him extremely difficult to read.
This ability and range of movement transfer extremely well to the central positions where the ability to beat a man and move into space is even more dangerous to the opposition.
The key to this example is the feint that Pavon sells the defender as the ball is played up to him. When looking to drop to take possession of the ball from his right back the small movement towards the ball is enough to drag the marking player out towards Pavon and the ball.
When the ball does come towards him Pavon simply steps over it and bursts past the defender on the outside. The ability to turn and then move to top speed so quickly is indicative of Pavon’s explosive athletic capacity and he easily outpaces the slower and less agile defender.
The end product is equally impressive as Pavon flashes a ball across the face of goal that the attacker, unfortunately, cannot finish.
This time Pavon takes possession of the ball on the corner of the opposition penalty area isolated against a single defender.
He shows his balance and agility in faking to go one way before immediately reversing direction and easily beating the defensive player.
This time he finishes the chance on his own as the goalkeeper hesitates.
Passing and awareness
In the modern game, it is equally important that wide players are capable of passing the ball intelligently and linking up with their teammates. Whilst this is an area of the game that Pavon was not initially strong in he has made an impressive improvement over the last twelve months to his link up play.
Indeed the ability to link the play and choose the right option when he has possession will be key for Pavon when he makes the move to Europe.
Here we see Boca Juniors playing in an established attacking phase. As the ball moves out to the right side to the right back who is in an extremely wide attacking position we see Pavon in the half space.
He makes an intelligent angled run and takes possession of the ball from the right back through a simple pass.
The reaction of Pavon is instant as he takes possession in space he is aware of the passing lanes and movements that are open to him and he instantly cuts the ball back to the player in space in the centre of the field. Unfortunately, the player who takes possession is unable to finish the chance.
Pavon again picks up possession of the ball in the half space with little by way of immediate pressure from the defenders.
Instead of driving forward with the ball himself Pavon instead identifies the space in the defensive structure and sees the movement of the attacking player. He plays a perfectly weighted through ball between the defensive line allowing the attacking player to take the ball in his stride and have a chance on goal.
Ability in the defensive phase
Pavon does not only impress in the attacking phase but his ability to recover position and press the opposition when they have possession of the ball.
Pavon is aggressive in looking to regain the ball often looking to lead the pressing movement of the side on his own and when he wins the ball back we see Pavon look to initiate immediate attacking transitions to catch the opposition out of position.
Here we see the capacity that Pavon has to recover quickly. He covers a lot of ground as the ball is played by the opposition out to the wide area.
As the man in possession enters the Boca penalty area Pavon gets back into a position to make a challenge. He stays on his feet and wins the ball cleanly before looking to carry the ball up the field.
Again here the opposition are looking to access the wide area as they attack into the Boca half. As they move into the final third we again see Pavon make up ground on the attacker before winning the ball back, again the challenge is clean and he does not give away a foul.
This ability and willingness to track back in the defensive phase show the character and tactical discipline that Pavon possesses.
At 21 years of age, Cristian Pavon is approaching the perfect age for a move to European football from Argentina.
I would expect to see his first move to a nation like Portugal or Spain where his style of play would fit perfectly. He has already shown the capacity to evolve his game however and a greater involvement in the defensive phase and a willingness to pass the ball into advanced areas are signs that he is developing into the perfect modern winger.
There is little doubt that the man from Cordoba is prepared to continue the tradition of successful Argentinian footballers in Europe.