Following a debut from the bench on Matchday 7, the highest scoring non-German in Bundesliga history is up and running again in the league, but can Claudio Pizarro alone turn round a Cologne side with just one point and two goals to their name from seven games?
bundesliga.com digs a little deeper and takes a look what the entire Pizarro package will bring to the Billy Goats and fellow striker Jhon Cordoba.
In the press conference organised to announce the signing of one of the greatest goalscorers in Bundesliga history, Cologne coach Peter Stöger offered wise words to the gathered media. “Claudio Pizarro came onto our radar because we believe he can help us through this difficult phase. He is a strong finisher and his personality is such that he can help our team,” the Austrian tactician said.
His Cologne side looking somewhat lost at the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign, Stöger is looking to the legendary Bundesliga marksman to help find a chink of light. More than just a personality to lift the dressing-room, Pizarro can produce in front of goal.
Fans throughout the division will no doubt delight in seeing the Bundesliga’s highest non-German goalscorer of all-time back in the top-flight once more. What’s more, the player himself seems ecstatic that the opportunity to delay retirement has arisen at the Billy Goats. “My body told me I needed to be back on the pitch again and playing,” Pizarro – most recently at Werder Bremen – explained.
Having almost felt like he was wandering through a desert wilderness during his brief few months out of the game, the 39-year-old has found a life source at the RheinEnergieStadion.
Watch: Pizarro's moment of magic
Pizarro right for Cologne system
Prior to his cameo against Leipzig on Matchday 7, his previous Bundesliga game came almost four months ago, although the former Bayern Munich man remains in strikingly good shape. Having an immediate impact at his new club is not out of the question, especially considering Cologne play to Pizarro’s strengths. In what turned out to be a disappointing end to his Werder career, the striker found it tough playing as a lone forward and with his back to goal. At Cologne, he may be expected to operate quite differently.
It is, of course, highly unlikely that Pizarro will start every game or compete for a full 90 minutes. However, featuring alongside forward Jhon Cordoba might well help to bring out the best in the physically powerful Colombian. Pizarro’s presence can open spaces for Cordoba to exploit. Indeed, it is telling that the Peruvian’s arrival could end up benefitting Cordoba the most, with the pressure on the 24-year-old’s shoulders weighing heavily since his summer transfer from Mainz to replace Anthony Modeste.
Consummate professional that he is, the veteran recognised this immediately, stressing in interviews that his team-mates should relax and allow him to bear the burden.
A South American dynamic duo?
The fact that Cordoba will now have a fellow Spanish speaker in Pizarro alongside him at the club and on the pitch may make a telling difference for the Colombian, but he also plays into the Peruvian’s hands with a complimenting style of play.
Even in his heyday, Pizarro was never the big target man with the mission to bring the ball down, hold it up and all players around him to move into space. His job was always to be the predator in the box, pouncing on any chances to fall his way. At Bayern, he played alongside the likes of Roy Makaay, Roque Santa Cruz and Carsten Jancker who would be that target man and allow Pizarro to do his job in the box. He now has the ideal partner in crime once again in Cordoba.
It may require a change of tactics and approach from boss Stöger to accommodate the South American pair, but having them in tandem would surely be the way to get the best out of both and take advantage of having one of the league’s all-time greats in the squad.
Watch: what did Pizarro make of his Cologne debut against Leipzig?
It is unlikely that Claudio Pizarro will net double figures for Cologne this season, but he could be the building block the team needs as they seek to find a way off the bottom of the standings. As Peter Stöger said, Pizarro’s personality both on the pitch and in the dressing room, may provide the spark that fires Cologne’s thus far stuttering campaign, but it’s also about utilising him in the right manner.