The name "Goran Pandev" doesn't exactly strike fear in to the hearts of Napoli's enemies these days. No, most times mentioning him just draws a few wry chuckles, and sad sighs from Napoli fans.
Pandev was once a pretty decent player, with a nose for goal and a decent playmaking ability in him. We haven't really seen that player at Napoli, though, and now it seems the Goran Pandev Experiment is over in Naples, with the club seeming disinterested in keeping him around for another season.
It's easy to see why. Pandev has lost a couple of steps of pace, gets dispossessed or otherwise loses the ball far too easily, and tends to be utterly anonymous and ineffective far, far more often than not. Even when he scores, it generally seems to have more to do with the ball finding it's way to him to be shot or tapped in rather than much of anything he did.
It didn't take Rafa Benitez long to tire of Pandev's listless performances, with starts for the Macedonian international drying up by the end of the fall, eventually only starting when Marek Hamsik or Gonzalo Higuain were injured or in dire need of rest, and not even always when that was the case. Even when he did start, Pandev was almost always one of the first players off the pitch for a sub, going the full ninety minutes just twice all year. Even as a sub he was often an afterthought, with ten of his seventeen sub appearances coming in at 15 minutes or less, and half of those coming in at six minutes or less.
Pandev's agent, of course, feels that the problem lies outside of his client's control, instead shifting the blame to Rafa Benitez."Pandev would like to stay at Napoli, he is happy in the city and with the Neapolitan fans," he said in an interview with Radio Mana Sport. "The issue relating to his staying with the Azzurri concerns Benitez. With the Spanish Coach, Goran totalled a good number of appearances but with little playing time, demonstrating that he is not considered a first team regular."
So it's Rafa's fault that Pandev has been declining for three years and isn't good enough any more to be in the starting lineup of a scudetto contender and hopeful Champions League regular. Right. OK then.
Pandev's agent then went on at length about a supposed offer from Roma for his clients' services, which seems like an odd fit for him. Just looking at their roster, it doesn't look like he'd get much more playing time for Roma than he would at Napoli, and they certainly wouldn't raise his wages by any significant margin. Then you add in the fact that Pandev's best days came with Lazio, a club he supposedly still loves, and it becomes even more confusing, because you know Roma fans will remember his days with their rivals and will give him no end of grief for it.
With a return to Lazio not on the cards, though, Pandev needs to go somewhere, and I suppose there would be worse fits around than Roma. Even his agent acknowledged that him playing for the giallorossi would be an "odd situation", though, and there surely has to be a club somewhere that can afford him who can offer a better situation. Perhaps another return and a reunion with Walter Mazzarri might make sense, or maybe even a move to Parma if they get their UEFA licence and head to the Europa league. Either way, don't expect to see Pandev in a Napoli kit next season.