When Alexandre Pato was 16 years old, he was signed by Sport Club Internacional to compete in the Campeonato Brasileiro Sub-20. Now, “d espite the fact that he was competing against players up to four years older than he was, Pato became top scorer of the competition as Internacional Sub-20 defeated Grêmio 4–0 in the championship’s final match, scored his first professional goal within the first minute of the game, and was included in the Internacional squad that won the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup. During this event, Pato broke Pelé’s long standing record as he became the youngest ever player to score in a FIFA-organised competition at the age of 17 years and 102 days old against African club champions Al-Ahly (Wikipedia).” Wow, what an introduction. This is not including major highlights at Internacional, with authoritative performances at Campeonato Gaúcho, Copa Libertadores, and Recopa Sudamericana. But where is he now? Let’s examine.
I remember the first time I saw Alexandre Pato play; it was in a showcase tournament called the FIFA Club World Cup (this competition is marketed as the champions of champions tournament. There truly isn’t much prestige about it though, but thats another post for another day…). Anyways, he was an outstanding player who eventually caught the eyes of Italian giants AC Milan. Rightly so, the European Champions at the time hopped on the opportunity to sign the prominent Brazilian. He scored on both his non-competitive and competitive debut, becoming a productive winger scoring and assisting goals in a lethal 4-3-3 formation. At the height of his time in Milan from about 2007-2009, he was awarded the 2009 Serie A Young Footballer of the Year award, becoming the first Brazilian player to do so. At the national stage, he scored his first goal for the senior Brazilian team on his debut against Sweden, beating Pelé’s record of scoring a goal within seconds (Wikipedia). Then, from thigh and hamstring issues, injuries began arising. This is where this tale of a young striker who had the world at his feet takes a turn.
I reached out to soccer writer Daniel Gutman for more insight. He wrote that although the ending of his venture at Milan was blighted by injuries, “ when he was fit he was a lethal and speedy goalscorer who easily could’ve commanded a €40-50 million fee by now. ” Constantly being rushed into games caused him to get injured and re-injured; but this also highlights how much that Milan team needed and valued his services. Although not as marketable as F.C. Barcelona’s Neymar, I believe that if Pato’s career stayed on track, he would have been exactly what Brazil and Neymar needed to complete a dynamic striking duo. Not only could he have aided Brazil and Neymar during their World Cup campaign in their backyard, but he could have been even better than his flamboyant Brazilian counterpart. At peak fitness, Pato’s speed, power, and physique made him a force to be reckoned with; something Neymar makes-up with his technical ability (not taking anything away from Pato who also had amazing technique!). He truly had everything that a player that played his position needed, and more.
While collaborating with Daniel, he also noted that Pato went through a growth spurt from 2007-2012 tallying to eight centimeters. This also could have played a role in his muscular issues and constant injuring and re-injuring. Writing from experience, once you have had several injuries, you lose the same drive to go into plays, coinciding with your ability to push your physical capabilities to the absolute limit. It is almost like you withdraw your game a bit (we are seeing some of this now with Thiago Silva at PSG), and it is a shame that a gem like Pato had to subdue his shine for the sake of staying fit for games.
Maybe what also cost him to lose sight of goal were his bad partying habits. It is noted that “El Fenomono” Ronaldo’s playing ability would fluctuate at the expense of his personal life. I mean who wouldn’t be affected by their personal life. For example, when things were going well, he was scoring goals. However, when he was going through divorces or tough times, it showed on the field. Sify Sports article wrote, “t he wife of Brazilian football star Alexandre Pato has dumped him over his wild nights with teammate Ronaldinho .” In 2013, he also recently ended a serious relationship; perhaps these issues are also influencing his game on the pitch?
Nevertheless, let’s fast forward to today. Soccer journalist Paulo Nobre described Pato as “ the worst signing in the history of Corinthians “. Brazil were humiliated in their home in the 2014 FIFA World Cup by the rampant and eventual winners Germany, while also being out-shined by an attractive-playing and passionate Colombia. The side known for their ‘ joga-bonito ‘ was missing firepower up front; there was no Pato. Perhaps for his Confederations Cup form, former Brazilian Head Coach Luis Felipe Scolari believed that Fred was a more potent player. Not sorry to say, he was a waste of space on the field. Neymar and the attacking force including Chelsea F.C.’s Oscar and Willian could have very much benefited from another dynamic attacking talent for defenders to worry about, i.e. Pato.
Who knows what could have done the job. Maybe it was just injuries/constant re-injuring, bad partying habits, or more. Robbie Blakely from Bleacher Report wrote it well, “ It is quite hard to believe the Sao Paulo forward does not turn 25 until September. His short career has seen him discarded more often than yesterday’s newspaper .” Now 26, it seems he has been in the game for so long despite being so young. I went on YouTube to watch some compilation videos of skills, goals, and assists from Pato and peeped at some of the comments; “ still better than Fred ,”” simple classic case of young player pushed to do too much too soon ,”” Pato really was as good as advertised. He was absolutely brilliant for a couple years, perhaps even our best player. Injuries happened left and right under Allegri, and with Pato already being injury prone, it was too much .” It is truly a shame what happened to Pato as now one can only think of the “what if’s” and “what could’ve been’s.”
Does he have a real shot at a return to the Brazilian National Team, or even re-igniting his career? Brazilian Coach Dunga will know that Pato will be 29 years of age when the next World Cup in Russia rolls around. It may too little too late as Dunga will possibly be keeping eyes on a new generation of attacking talent. In terms of his career, let’s hope for the best. Alexandre Pato is one that got away.
Thanks for reading and tune in next week! I will be starting a “Where Are They Now” series profiling soccer players who seemingly only had the sky as the limit, but fell off for reasons either in or out of their control.
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