Benjamin Pavard is a name known to most football fans (in large part for that goal in the 2018 World Cup) but we can’t exactly call ourselves experts on him after just a week or two in an Inter kit. We know who can, however, and where better to go than our Bayern Munich sister site, Bavarian Football Works for the low-down on the Frenchman. Site manager CSmith1919 was kind enough to offer his time and knowledge on Pavard, getting us ready for what will come once Pavard steps foot onto the San Siro pitch.
Q: What’s the general overview of Pavard? How does he play and what are his strengths/weaknesses?
A: Benjamin Pavard is a strong, versatile defender, who should be a staple along Inter Milan’s backline moving forward. At Bayern Munich, just about no one wanted to see him leave from the coaches to the executives to his teammates. However, Pavard wanted to play center-back and that position has three quality players (Matthijs de Ligt, Dayot Upamecano, Kim Min-jae) already there. Truthfully, he might have been Bayern Munich’s second-best center-back last season (behind De Ligt), in addition to playing very admirably at right-back.
Pavard’s biggest strength is flexibility in where a coach can use him. He is aptly able to be moved around and be successful at each position. At Inter, it seems like they will take advantage of his presumed preference to be more of a “stay at home” body on the backline. He is strong in the air and on ground duels and is an excellent passer. During his time at Bayern Munich, he developed an edge and was able to get under the skin of his opponents with his physical play as well. Notably, he frustrated Neymar and Kylian Mbappe last season in the Champions League Round of 16. As far as weaknesses go, Pavard does not have many. Occasionally, when things get frantic he will lose his mark as his squad scrambles. Pavard can also be prone to pick up knocks pretty easily.
A couple of other things to note are that Pavard is actually very good around the net and tends to score nothing but bangers. Every goal looks like a highlight video for him. Also, if there is a concern about Pavard, it is that he will rush back from his injuries and try to return far too early. Whether that happens because he is extremely eager to play or if he is concerned with losing his gig, Pavard will return to action before he is physically ready — and it shows. Most infamously, Pavard drew the ire of a lot of Bayern Munich fans back in the 2020/21 season because he came back before he was ready and played slow and tentative. He never quite looked comfortable until the second half of the season — after he had a chance to regroup during the winter break.
One other thing to keep an eye on is that Pavard talked openly about the difficulty he experienced during the COVID lockdown. Mentally, it was extremely hard for him to cope with being isolated as he is definitely someone who benefits from being part of the pack, rather than being a lone wolf — on and off the field. That was the first time we had seen any type of behavior that seemed somewhat odd or concerning. Pavard also irked his France World Cup teammates with his attitude last winter, which shows that not everyone cares for how mercurial he can be sometimes. He might not always be the best at expressing himself or communicating, but those were not common occurrences for him at Bayern Munich.
Q: Inter plays a 3-5-2 every single time it takes the pitch. Has Pavard had experience with that formation and how do you see him fitting in?
A: Pavard played in a back three last season with Bayern Munich under Julian Nagelsmann and was fantastic. The formation was really more of a 3-4-2-1 or 3-4-1-2 (depending on the attacking personnel), but Pavard was one of Bayern Munich’s stronger players during that period. Nagelsmann was neurotic with his tinkering and often asked some of his versatile players like Pavard to change positions depending on who they were facing or who was available due to injury. I think as the right-side center-back in a back three-based formation, Pavard will perform excellently.
Q: Why was Bayern willing to let Pavard go? What is his lasting legacy in Munich? Any favorite moments of his?
A: By all accounts, no one wanted Pavard to go. He simply had enough of Germany and wanted a new challenge — specifically one that included the chance to play center-back every day. He was popular on the team and each of the last four coaching staffs at Bayern Munich saw value in his talent as he held key roles under Niko Kovac, Hansi Flick, Nagelsmann, and Thomas Tuchel.
In Munich, all Pavard did was win...like everything. He was a key contributor in every trophy that Bayern Munich won during his time with the club and typically did so without causing much of a distraction. He will be missed by most fans of Bayern Munich (though, there are still some holdouts, who he never really won over).