I seldom presume to speak for all Roma fans, but I feel comfortable in taking this leap: when it comes to Javier Pastore most Roma fans were probably madly in love with the player who left Palermo in 2011. That Pastore was a game changer, a tall and impossibly skinny kid who was carving up Italian defenses with the skill and intuition of a player much older, and with an eye for goal to boot. Imagining Pastore linking up with Francesco Totti was the stuff of dreams, but that Roma—the one making the transition from the Sensi era to Thomas Di Benedetto's takeover—was in no position to harbor those delusions of grandeur.
So when Roma landed Pastore last summer, a part of you probably still smiled. Admit it. We knew for certain we weren't getting the old El Flaco, but even if he could conjure up a fraction of his old self, we were in for something special. After all, Pastore's game was more about grace than gratuitous athleticism; he figured to age well, so there was ample reason for optimism.
And, well, those well wishes seemed doomed now. Thanks to a spate of minor injuries, Pastore spent the bulk of last season on the outside looking in, nursing a bulky calf that kept him in the trainer's room for nearly three months. When Pastore finally left the physio table he place was usurped by Lorenzo Pellegrini, leaving El Flaco to survive on table scraps. All told, Pastore managed only 596 league minutes last season, though he did manage three goals in that span.
Through two matches this season, Pastore has remained a bit player, coming on as a second half substitute against Genoa and Lazio, racking up 39 minutes through the first two rounds. While El Flaco isn't without a role on this squad, it is fair to question whether or not he'd accept such a small place in Paulo Fonseca's squad, a question that popped up fairly regularly during the summer transfer window when he was connected with a variety of moves out of Rome.
While Europe's shopping season has been over for a week now, the window remains wide open in Qatar, where clubs can make new acquisitions through the end of this month. Accordingly, many are speculating that Pastore, along with fellow Serie A spare parts Mario Mandzukic and Borja Valero, could catch the interest of Qatari clubs, most notably Al-Gharafa.
With the last minute addition of Arsenal attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan—one that looks increasingly shrewder given how great he was with Armenia last week—Pastore's playing time could shrink even further this season.
It would be a sad end for such a sublime talent, but the fit between Roma and Javier Pastore was always an awkward one, so it might as well get an awkward ending, right?
Whatever comes to pass, Javier Pastore—the Palermo Pastore—will stand as living proof of why they call it the beautiful game, and at least we got a small taste of that.