By Thierry Nyann
In the summer of 2007, a certain Alexandre Pato boarded a private jet that would transport him from sunny Brazil to cool Milan, from the periphery of the game to footballing greatness.
WHAT NEXT | Pato hoping to revive career at Corinthians
Pato was secured at the time by AC Milan for $40 million but could not feature for the Rossoneri till 2008, due to Uefa rules regarding non-EU minors. He scored his maiden Milan goal on his Serie A debut against Napoli in a 5–2 home win on 13 January 2008. Fourteen days later, his first brace in a Milan shirt came in a 2–0 victory over Genoa at the San Siro. He finished the 2007-08 season with nine goals in 20 appearances.
That blistering start had everyone sit up to watch the astonishing lad who was making waves in Italy's top division. Just when critics felt he was going to buckle under the huge pressure and expectations, Pato finished the next season as Milan's top goalscorer with 18 goals.
This, clearly, was a youngster on an upward trajectory.
Truncated by injuries, he could not surpass his personal best for Milan yet still mustered 14 goals in the 2009-10 season as Milan won their first Scudetto in six years. Another 16 goals in the term that followed meant Pato had hit double figures for the Italian giants in three consecutive seasons.
|His form in the Brazilian league has since been quite unstable. Before long, he would have to turn the tables if he is to emerge the player the world envisaged.
The seven-time European champions had invested so much hope in young Pato. In an aging squad, the sprightly 20-year-old represented the future for the Serie A outfit. Blessed with the pace of a gazelle, a fine first touch, and an unerring finish in front of goal, the Brazilian had all the attributes to make it big in the game.
Pato was called to the senior national team setup in 2008 and made an immediate impact on his Selecao debut against Sweden at London's Emirates Stadium, beating Pelé's record of scoring within seconds of his full international debut with a fine goal. Such feats would lead to Pato earning comparisons with Brazilian greats of the past, as well as establishing himself as the standard for future break-out stars, among them current FC Barcelona forward Neymar.
The careers of Pato and Neymar have coincided and overlapped in a manner that does not flatter the former
"Pato's move to Corinthians only highlighted the path he was on. He had started to falter and could only engineer a move to his homeland"
As Pato transferred eastwards to Corinthians for a fee of $20 million in January 2013 - in a move characteristic of what many a top Brazilian star do to reignite a stuttering career - Neymar, arguably the best player at his age in the world, switched the black-and-white stripes of his boyhood club Santos for the famous claret-and-blue of European superpower Barcelona six months later.
Pato's move to Corinthians only highlighted the path he was on. He had started to falter and could only engineer a move to his homeland, rejecting several offers from some of Europe's top clubs. He scored just two goals in his final season at Milan, rendering his position at the club quite dispensable.
And so to Corinthians he went.
Pato got on the score sheet in his first game for the Brasileirao outfit after receiving a delightful pass from Paulinho, thereby maintaining his fine reputation of scoring on his debuts. His form in the Brazilian league has since been quite unstable. Before long, he would have to turn the tables if he is to emerge the player the world envisaged and which he had dreamt of becoming.
Pato possesses the skillsets the likes of Neymar and Bale have, but at 24, he ought to realise he has limited time to fulfill the potential highlighted above.
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