CARSON (AP) — Clubs around the world wanted Cristian Pavón, the 23-year-old Argentine forward with a beautiful scoring touch.
Pavón says he only wanted to be with the LA Galaxy and the coach who inspired his best play back home with Boca Juniors.
After months of negotiations, Pavón and the Galaxy both got what they wanted Thursday when he joined Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his new teammates at training. The Galaxy believe the budding star has arrived in plenty of time to revitalize their season.
“For a moment, I thought things wouldn’t come true, since it took such a long time,” Pavón said. “But now I’m enjoying the city and enjoying being with my teammates.”
Pavón will be playing in his new No. 10 jersey as soon as next week, once his visa requirements are satisfied. Pavón has been a consistent scorer for Boca Juniors since 2014, and he played in every game for Argentina at last year’s World Cup.
“This is a great league, and I decided to come here to win everything,” Pavón said through a translator during his formal introduction. “There have been a lot of great players at the Galaxy, like David Beckham and Zlatan. I want to win things with the club and show that I’m in top form.”
The five-time MLS champions are perhaps best known internationally for signing great players at the tail end of their careers. The Galaxy are getting Pavón on the cusp of his prime, and they believe it’s a sign of good things for the club and the North American league.
“We’re getting to a point where younger players are choosing this league to play, to improve and sometimes even move on, like (Atlanta’s Miguel) Almiron,” Galaxy general manager Dennis Te Kloese said. “That we can compete with leagues for this talent speaks highly of the Galaxy and our league.”
Pavón’s move is a loan from Boca Juniors that lasts only through the remainder of this current season, but the Galaxy believe this will be a long-term relationship. They have an option to extend the loan through the 2020 season, followed by an option to purchase Pavón permanently afterward.
“We obviously fought hard to have the option to bring him back,” Te Kloese said.
Pavón is reuniting with Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who ran Boca Juniors for nearly three years of Pavon’s career before moving to LA last January. The forward has 28 goals and 32 assists in 108 first-team appearances since joining the club in 2014.
Pavón also is reteaming with Galaxy midfielder Favio Álvarez. The Argentines grew up together in Tallares de Cordóba’s academy system.
Barros Schelotto, a longtime star player at Boca Juniors before his coaching career, is the primary reason the Galaxy outfoxed their many competitors for Pavón’s services, according to Te Kloese.
Boca Juniors was reluctant to give up Pavón at all until the forward’s determination to leave, coupled with a recent downturn in his production, persuaded the Argentine powers to allow the move.
“For the last part of the season, (Pavón) will give us a lot of really good things,” Barros Schelotto said. “He’s fast. He’s very direct. He won’t try to do a lot of touches. He can solve some of our problems in front and show us the way to connect with Ibra.”
Despite Ibrahimovic’s second season of offensive brilliance, only three MLS teams have fewer goals than the Galaxy’s 30. LA has desperately needed another impactful offensive player alongside Ibrahimovic ever since French winger Romain Alessandrini injured his knee in April.
After a strong start to their first season under Barros Schelotto, the Galaxy (12-10-1) have lost nine of 14 to drop from second to fifth in MLS’ Western Conference standings.
Barros Schelotto believes Pavón can provide a playmaking impact similar to Alessandrini’s steady excellence when healthy. What’s more, Alessandrini himself is on track to return to action next month, potentially putting three of MLS’ most talented offensive players on the same front line down the regular-season stretch.
“He’s a quality player,” Ibrahimovic said after training. “He’s fast, good with the ball, creative and able to score. He will be good. You have to remember, we are playing without Romain the whole season. We are missing one big quality, and if we can get back Romain along with Pavón, we are going to have more pieces and be a better team.”