Every once in a while there is a player from outside the top four clubs that sets the championship alight, only this time we have two of them. Lazio’s Anderson Hernanes and Palermo’s Javier Pastore are soon becoming the most wanted men in Italy and beyond, after sizzling the fields of the peninsula in these opening weeks. The story of Hernanes is particularly interesting as he is by no means the next Ronaldo or the new Ronaldinho. As a Brazilian, he has bloomed rather late at 24 but his talent and potential have always stood out. Hernanes’arrival at Rome was feted ad nauseam, due to the keen interest shown by other major Serie A sides, such as Inter and Juventus. While Claudio Lotito’s transfer tactics have often been questioned, there is little doubt this is one investment that looks set to pay rich dividends. After finally arriving in Europe, Hernanes has propelled Lazio to the top of the standings and the Biancocelesti are looking like they could actually challenge for places.
What makes Hernanes special is his versatility in an era of specific player roles. He is of the same ilk as the Brazilian players of yore, able to switch places and positions almost anywhere in the playing field. His displays for both São Paulo and now Lazio have been characterized by his covering almost every inch of the grass. If he is not at one end, popping in with crucial goals, he is surely at the other shutting down the opposition and then spreading the play with ease. The Biancocelesti will be hoping that he can maintain the same levels throughout the season and, should he do so, a top four finish for the first time since the Calciopoli season of 2006-07 may not be so unlikely after all.
On the other hand, there is Javier Pastore – a player who is making another power-mad President, Palermo’s Mauro Zamparini, dance with delight. When Pastore signed for the Sicilians a year ago, it was a major coup for Zampa as a host of Europe’s top clubs were vying for his signature. Pastore had been brilliant in a loan spell at Huracán the season before and his acquisition was perceived by most as a clear signal Palermo was ready to challenge for Europe. However, things did not go exactly as planned and the Argentine found himself on the bench for a good few months under Walter Zenga and then Delio Rossi, before finally starting to cement his place in the team. It was no coincidence that the Rosanero rose dramatically in the standings at the same time as Pastore’s improved performances. They finished the season in fifth place, only just missing out on a place in the Champions League.
This term, Pastore has transcended exponentially and his level of play is easily one of the best in the peninsula. He played the wrecker-in-chief during Palermo’s win over Juventus and was slightly unfortunate not to find the back of the net against holders Inter. In fact the Argentine has been in such a rich vein of form that already a number of clubs have reportedly queued up in a bid to lure him away next season. Pastore’s remarkable skills have been especially notable as Edison Cavani’s departure for Napoli was supposed to have weakened the Sicilians. Furthermore, Fabrizio Miccoli is yet to feature due to injury but both these absences have been negated by the Argentine’s brilliance. It remains to be seen what Palermo can do when Miccoli is fit again within a few weeks’ time.
With only seven rounds played in the Championship, it would be rather naive to suggest that Hernanes and Pastore will lead their respective sides to glory but nonetheless, the two South Americans will surely leave a lasting impression on Italy in a year’s time.