Not seen as a part of Jose Mourinho's plans at AS Roma, Javier Pastore appears destined for a new home, with AS Monaco emerging as the chief candidate to bring him in.
Experienced, technically gifted and still eager to play at the top level of the sport, the Argentine playmaker's proven what a class act he is over the years playing for Palermo, Paris Saint-Germain, AS Roma and for the Argentine national team.
Aside from being 32, the other big question mark surrounding his future is his torrid recent injury record, which restricted him to just five Serie A appearances totalling 77 minutes last season. Moreover, the fact he's only managed 1662 minutes and 37 appearances in all competitions with the Giallorossi further underlines his struggles since joining in 2018 from PSG for €24.7 million.
According to respected stats site Transfermarkt, Pastore's missed a staggering 60 matches and 421 days of action through injury during his time at Roma, which is reason for concern for any potential buyer.
Set to be available for a minimal transfer fee even though he still has a couple of years left on his contract, there's definitely still some upside attached to bringing him.
A uniquely gifted playmaker who can play in a range of positions across the final third, El Flaco's tremendous vision and quality to produce moments of magic to unlock deep sitting rearguards is a huge asset. Capable of threading through balls and playing backheels or flicks that very few players can, the Argentine maestro can be a real game changer whether starting matches or coming off the bench.
An immense creative force, his ingenuitive passing not only sees him create chances out of nothing, but link play coherently, switch the angle of attacks and strike some neat crosses and cutbacks into the area.
Possessing an immaculate first touch and Velcro like ball control, this means he can weave out of danger, unbalance opponents on the dribble, turn them sharply and withstand pressure comfortably. Capable of outfoxing his trackers with slick shimmies, turns, feints, shoulder drops, stepovers and faked passes, Pastore's aptitude in this regard helps him beat his man or gain separation to execute his actions.
Receiving the ball in good postures depending on where the ball is coming from, this, in combination with his scanning so he knows what's going around him, enhancing his ability to make quality decisions. Whether protecting the ball from incoming pressure, turning against the grain of the pressure or knowing if he can receive in advantageous forward facing postures, his intelligence in this area is impressive.
Another key byproduct of his ball handling arises from how it helps him win free kicks in threatening areas and provokes opponents out of position to free up a teammate or open a passing lane upfield.
Causing constant havoc with his crafty movement, opponents find him hard to keep tabs on due to his spatial awareness and subtle alterations to exploit gaps within defensive units. Be it finding room in between the lines, dropping deep to connect play, drifting into the less populated half spaces or rotating with colleagues, his prowess in the area sets him apart.
Elegant, languid and a joy to watch when at the top of his game, it'll be fascinating to see if he can remain healthy and get close to recapturing the level he operated at during his time with Palermo and PSG.
In the case of Monaco, he'd add some extra class and experience to the squad to complement the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Kevin Volland, Wissam Ben Yedder, Sofiane Diop and Aleksandr Golovin. While he'd be a useful acquisition, the fact Monaco have plenty of depth in attacking areas would mean he'd have to settle predominantly for minutes off the bench. But as he proved with PSG during his 269 matches that saw him score 45 goals and lay on 62 assists, he's a player that can both score and create, thus making him a handy man to call on to provide inspiration to swing matches.
With his agent stating Pastore's desire to remain in Europe, it's understandable a player of his calibre would appeal to Monaco. Although many have expressed concerns about this move, you can guarantee Monaco will thoroughly assess the feasibility of any potential deal and do their due diligence before finalising anything.
At this stage, with his future far from sorted and Monaco the only club firmly linked, it'll be interesting to see what happens next, with the pivotal deciding factor being if any assurances can be made regarding his physical condition.