By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor
The rumours were rife in the summer of 2009. As Carlo Ancelotti set about making his mark on new club Chelsea, media outlets in both England and Italy were insistent that the former AC Milan coach would ask his new bosses to part with €35 million to sign the Rossoneri’s Alexandre Pato. At one stage it seemed inevitable that the Brazilian’s stint on the peninsula was over.
But more than two years later, Pato remains a Milan player, and is now a champion of Italy to boot. His 14 goals last term helped Massimiliano Allegri’s side claim their first league crown in seven years, yet in so many other ways the season had brought more evidence for those who believed the striker should have been allowed to leave when Chelsea came enquiring.
With perennial hamstring pulls, strains in multiple adductor muscles, ankle trouble and latterly issues with his thigh, the 22-year-old has racked up an injury history that many players in the indian summer of their careers have managed to avoid. While this may well be no fault of Pato’s, Milan would be foolish not to bear this in mind if a firm bid is made for the former Internacional man next summer.
And with the likely introduction of Carlos Tevez in January, it appears that Pato is set to undergo the most difficult period of his Milan career on the pitch too. Having been a first choice almost since the day he netted on his memorable debut in the 5-2 win over Napoli in 2008, the Manchester City man's arrival could well see the Brazilian pushed onto the bench.
In the last couple of months, there have been new reports of interest from Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, and while the English side were credited with an interest in a €65m transfer switch at the beginning of last season which never went anywhere, the latest links - suggesting that he could head for the Premier League in a quasi-swap move for Tevez - deserve a little more consideration.
Pato is undoubtedly a huge asset to the Rossoneri when his is fit and firing, and his record of 60 goals in 134 games for the club is not to be sniffed at. But his propensity to collapse in full flight is becoming a real issue. The thought of seeing the striker starting even 75 per cent of Milan fixtures remains nothing more than a distant dream. He even missed the recent trip to Genoa having made just a single start since his previous spell on the sidelines.
ALEXANDRE PATO | ALL-TIME AC MILAN STATS
As he closes in on the four-year anniversary of his debut for the then-European and world champions, one must question whether he will ever reach a stage where he can run at full pace with great regularity without clutching his hamstring, his thigh, or any other leg muscle put under the pressure of his stop-start club career so far.
After each new injury blow comes another test for each muscle which has not been worked as it would be with regular football. With each spell out comes another question mark as to Pato’s long-term viability as a top-level striker of blistering pace. His speed is by far and away his outstanding quality, but he’s gradually losing his effectiveness in that department despite still being in the fledgling stages of his career. And he has already been missing from the starting XI in 82 of the 186 games the Rossoneri have played since his debut.
The €45m which Milan would allegedly ask for the striker - or the services of Tevez plus a hefty cash sum - may well come in more handy than a striker whose one great asset could be completely compromised by the time he reaches 25, and so far he hasn’t shown the technical nor tactical intelligence which would be necessary to adjust his game and make him a more all-round forward upon the loss of his pace.
Though Tevez is five-and-a-half years older than Pato, his ability to stay fit over longer periods must not be overlooked. Of course, any player could befall a serious one-off injury at any point, but the constant issues the likes of which the Brazilian is regularly struck by can become a real drain on a club. Add to that the power and flair the former West Ham and Manchester United striker adds to the game, and you have an excellent forward option for the next few years.
So while rumours of an exit for Pato are nothing new, don’t be too surprised to hear that this time Milan could be taking them seriously. Even his relationship with club director Barbara Berlusconi shouldn’t stop the right decision being made, and with each new injury to the Brazilian, it appears the best choice may be to sell the player once considered the club’s brightest young star.Follow Kris Voakes on