The brilliance of Pablo 'El Mago' Aimar
Pablo Cesar Aimar Giordano is perhaps the most criminally underrated midfielder of the Millennium generation. A technically gifted and skillful playmaker, Aimar had all the abilities to be one of the best midfielders to ever grace the game. A divine right leg, coupled with that maverick brain, he made everything look so simple.
It was as if the world around him was in slow motion and that he could move seamlessly, gliding over the pitch like an Angel. He had this facade to him, this schoolboy-ish outer appearance which made him look more innocent than the sharp assassin that he was on the pitch.
When the world talks about great midfielders who have played the game in an artistic manner, we can always relate to the simplicity of El Mago. He was one of those footballers who “could have been”. Plying his trade in the simple streets of Argentina, one could always surmise that he was destined for greatness and so it came, his calling, in the form of River Plate. All the fans were mesmerised by his movement, his touch and his gift of being able to make everything look so plain and simple.
His talents soon came to the fore when Spanish giants Valencia came calling. That Valencia team which would go on to the UEFA Champions League final with Aimar calling all the shots from the middle of the park. His performances drew praises from all the stalwarts of the game, which included the likes of Diego Maradona who surely and certainly preferred this small boy over the likes of Saviola, Riquelme and others.
Johan Cruyff, who is not known for praising players easily, once famously said that Barcelona must try to sign Aimar rather than going after a certain “Ronaldinho”. Boy, would that have been something! Pablo Aimar’s talents and skill on the ball could not be passed off without praise and this was seen by the players as well as the legends of the game, who just sat back and enjoyed his work on the pitch.
Aimar slowly but surely went on to build his legacy, thriving in the defensive midfield system of Rafa Benitez’s Valencia which enabled him to have a free role up front. He had some memorable games both in the Liga and the European level. Liverpool fans can never forget his header which broke their hearts in the 2002/03 season, which, incidentally, marked the arrival of Valencia as a force to be reckoned with.
El Mago played like a man with a mission, putting on match winning performances week in and week out, which made him a fan favourite and drew praises from pundits alike. Ultimately, his brilliance and a valiant team effort allowed him to be a part of a league winning squad, filled with gritty players.
Perhaps this was the best thing about that team. The Valencia squad was known to be workhorses and gritty all over the field and yet there was this one person, standing in the middle and orchestrating the whole team with his magical right foot.
At what seemed like the peak of his career in the 2003-04 season, he made over 30 appearances for the club, but sustained an injury-plagued season which would then go on to set the tone for the rest his career. A constant set of injuries and difficulties with the club and manager, Aimar was never fully able to unlock his potential. He was then forced to move out of the club, whilst garnering over 200 appearances over the course of five and a half years.
After moving out of Valencia, Aimar did not look at his best, his constant injuries and niggles never really allowed him to establish his game and hence, had some dull moments in his other clubs, namely Real Zaragoza, Benefica and a certain Malaysian side named Johor Darul Ta’zim F.C.
Aimar wasn’t the type of player who showed glimpses of magic, but was one of those truly blessed players who produced a divine symphony whenever they took to the pitch. His playing career might have been affected by constant injuries and long periods of time off the field, but whenever El Mago took to the field, there was nothing but joy and delight in the heart of us football fans.
Mesmerising performances against the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Liverpool among others, all while playing for an underdog team, made all neutral fans fall in love with this diminutive wizard.
In an exhaustive list of the players that were riddled with misfortune and the ones that could have been, Aimar’s name shines the brightest. He is that forgotten hero who inspired a generation of footballers and football lovers, and one of them includes a humble, nimble footed boy from Rosario named Lionel Messi. To say that Pablo Aimar was one of the world’s best playmakers would not be an understatement because his talent and success was undeniable.