Liverpool FC News: The incentive is there for all to see; having just become a Player of the Tournament, Dani Pacheco has no intentions of slipping back into the role of bit-part player.
It has been a glorious summer of sport for Spaniards, with the men’s football team conquering the world, Rafael Nadal winning Wimbledon and Alberto Contador racing away with the Tour de France and it clearly inspired Pacheco.
Leading Spain’s charge for glory at the Under-19 European Championships, Pacheco did his best to keep up the country’s winning habit and scored four times as El Rojo reached the final, only to be beaten 2-1 by the hosts, France.
If that was a blow, it was soon softened by the fact Pacheco’s skilful, industrious performances earned him the ultimate recognition and he was given an award that was once bestowed on his much-vaunted compatriot and club mate Fernando Torres.
“It was a good thing for me after we had lost the final,” said Pacheco. “Individual awards like that always make you proud. It will be good for the memory.”
Pacheco, clearly, is a bright talent, an enthusiastic bundle of energy who has plenty of tricks and knows how to score but if he is going to follow the path Torres’ has trod so successfully, things are about to get tougher.
With Rafa Benitez – the man who brought him to Anfield from Barcelona in the summer of 2007 – departed for pastures new, the 19-year-old must prove to Roy Hodgson that he can play a part in Liverpool’s future.
Encouragingly, it is a challenge that will inspire rather than intimidate; while some young footballers would be happy to sit back and enjoy the trappings that come with being employed by Liverpool, Pacheco is cut from a different cloth.
Money and fame do not matter to Pacheco, whose predatory instincts have led to him being dubbed “El Asesino” (The Assassin) back home; all he wants to do is pull on a Red shirt every week and make a contribution.
Happily, he got his first chance to show Hodgson what he could do during Thursday’s comfortable win over FC Rabotnicki, as Pacheco started a game for Liverpool for the first time and completed the full 90 minutes. Showing some neat touches and, above all, a pleasing attitude, Pacheco could feel satisfied with his evening’s work but do not think he will now be resting on his laurels; if anything, the opposite is true.
“I really enjoyed myself,” Pacheco, who occupied a position on the left, reflected. “I’ve had a good couple of weeks and though it was unfortunate that we lost the final, those things can happen in football. Now I just have to make sure that I keep going.
“I had only come back three days before the Rabotnicki game, so it was really pleasing that the manager decided to start me. It shows that he must have some confidence in me and I need to give that back.
“I found out I was playing on Wednesday. The manager spoke to me and asked how I was physically and I said I felt good, and he told me I was in his team. We played well and it was a good team performance.
“ I really want to do well for Liverpool and give my best. I have worked hard for this chance and hopefully I can impress the manager. I really enjoyed it against Rabotnicki and it made me happy to make my first start for the first team and play 90 minutes.
“But I have got to keep working hard.
“I know there had been some talk (about leaving for other clubs) but I want to stay here because this is a massive club and I want to make it work here.
“I know there are some challenges but I am ready for them.
“I have reached the age when I want to be playing. I want to show the manager that I can stay here, do well for him and play for Liverpool. That is the only thing on my mind right now.”
At one stage last month, though, there was a suggestion that a return to Spain – namely to Real Sociedad – was on the cards and the arrival of Joe Cole caused him to have further anxieties about whether he would have to depart.
Hodgson, however, made it clear that Liverpool would not be encouraging any bids for Pacheco; to back up those words, the starting place against the Macedonians worked a treat and in the main, Hodgson will have been satisfied.
What’s more, with Liverpool odds-on favourites to secure a place in the Europa League’s group stages after being paired with Trabzonspor, the demands placed on them means Pacheco will get more of what he wants throughout the season.
“It is important to get fit now, so I am ready to play as many games as possible,” said Liverpool’s number 47.
“It is an important period in my development and I want to make a success of things. If I get the chance, I’ll take it with both hands.
“Hopefully there will be chances because we want to be involved in a lot of games this season. It was great to playing alongside Joe, he is a top player and someone that I know I can learn off. I really want to make it happen.
“We just want to do good things. Personally, I don’t set targets. I just want to be involved in as many games as I can and do my best for the team. It doesn’t matter where I play, I just want to be involved.”