Claudio Pizarro happy to be "father figure" to Werder Bremen's USA prodigy Josh Sargent
During Werder Bremen’s mid-season warm weather training camp, USA international Josh Sargent described legendary Peru forward Claudio Pizarro as “like a father”. Now the 40-year-old has responded and explained it's a role he relishes.
Sargent has hit Bundesliga ground running, the 18-year-old scoring twice in his first three league appearances at the back end of the Hinrunde that has catapulted the Missourian into the River Islanders’ first-team reckoning.
While the pair are competing for places in Florian Kohfeldt’s starting line-up, Pizarro - a veteran of 18 Bundesliga seasons and 460 German top-flight appearances - is happily taking the young American freshman under his wing.
And what better tutelage could you hope for?
“If I recognise something about [Sargent] or other young players that happened to me in the past then I try to help, I give tips,” Pizarro said in an interview with Deichstube. “At the beginning of my own career, it was important that there was someone who told me, 'Hey, you're doing it wrong.'
“What I didn’t have to tell him was to keep his feet on the ground, because Josh is a calm guy and that does not happen to him.
“I've told Josh he needs to continue like this. When you score goals, you gain self-confidence and if you also have quality, more and more goals will come. That's why Josh just has to keep going and so far he has done well.”
Despite Pizarro’s obvious fondness for Sargent, the Peruvian is far from giving up on his own ambition of more minutes and his appetite for football is clearly undiminished.
That too while Pizarro is safe in the knowledge that the likes of Sargent and Johannes Eggestein have plenty of football ahead of them, the Bremen stalwart is aiding their development rather than blocking their path to further first-team opportunities.
“I'm really happy when the boys make it. They are the future of the club. But whoever plays, the coach decides, and I will fight for my place in the second half of the season as well,” added Pizarro. “I always want to play. When I'm fit, the coach will pick me as well.”
In his fifth spell at Bremen, Pizarro is currently trying to fend off Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski who is hunting Pizarro’s record goals haul for a foreign player in the Bundesliga.
Watch: Claudio Pizarro's legendary Bundesliga journey
Pizarro is also hoping to become the oldest goalscorer in the league’s history having moved into second place on Matchday 9 and in 2019 is looking to score in a record 21st consecutive Bundesliga calendar year.
It all means that, for now, the annual talk of his retirement can wait until the end of the season when his current deal with Bremen expires.
“I really have to be patient with this decision. Luckily I understood that. I have to wait and see what my body says, what the coach says, what the team thinks and whether we play in Europe. At the moment there's the idea that it's the end for me in May. And before there are any other conversations, I can't say anything else.”
Should the current campaign end with Pizarro’s retirement, you can be sure that he will depart having left a historic mark on the league and having proffered invaluable advice to Sargent & Co.
But it'd be foolish to write off another season and even more goals for this Bundesliga legend just yet.
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