He’s Set For Chelsea, But Where Did It All Go Wrong For Alexandre Pato?


October 2009, and two goals in the final 24 minutes from Alexandre Pato earn AC Milan a 3-2 victory over Real Madrid in a Champions League group stage game.

Granted, this wasn’t one of the greatest Madrid vintages of modern times.

Managed by Manuel Pellegrini, they had Lassana Diarra – formerly of Portsmouth – and Esteban Granero – whose next club would be QPR – in midfield. Jerzy Dudek sat on the bench, from where Royston Drenthe emerged to score for the hosts, a rare happy moment in a Madrid career which would soon disintegrate into spells at Everton, Reading and Sheffield Wednesday. Aged 28, he now plays for Baniyas in the UAE.

But Madrid, of course, would be back. They were always too big to fail for too long, and even though they are currently amongst the also-rans in Serie A, it’s almost certain that Milan will have their day in the sun once again too.

But bar a shocking error from Dida to allow Raul to score, the key memory from that evening in the Spanish capital was the performance and promise of the then 20-year-old Pato, who twice escaped the attentions of the home defence to fire past Iker Casillas – the final strike coming in the 88th minute.

Here was one of the great young talents in the European game performing on the continent’s greatest stage, and that seemed entirely apt. That night nobody would have predicted the dramatic fall from grace which was coming, although in reality it had already begun.

Three months before that Bernabeu brace, Pato had married the Brazilian soap opera actress and national sweetheart Sthefany Brito, a union that he saw as the crowning glory in a celebrity lifestyle that he was coming to embrace a little too much.

But whilst he enjoyed the Milan party scene Sthefany craved the home comforts of Brazil, leading to a troubled marriage which was to last just 10 months.

AC Milan's Brazilian forward Pato celebr : News Photo

Distracted by a troubled home life, Pato’s form began to suffer, so much so that he was left out of coach Dunga’s squad for the 2010 World Cup in favour of Luis Fabiano, Nilmar and Grafite – something which would have been unthinkable when he made his move from Internacional to Milan as one of the world’s most talented teenagers in 2007.

Perhaps determined to prove Dunga wrong, there was a flicker into life in the 2010/11 season as Pato linked up with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho to score 14 goals and help Milan to the title, but rather like the fortunes of the Rossoneri, things were soon to take a nose dive.

It was injuries, and not the partying, which were to blame this time.

Between the beginning of the 2011/12 season and halfway through 2012/13, Pato would play just 15 Serie A matches for Milan as a number of troubling muscular injuries took hold.

Becoming more famous for his two-and-a-half year relationship with Barbara Berlusconi, Silvio’s daughter and a presence on the board of directors at Milan, Pato’s career was beginning to resemble one of those ‘where are they now?’ stories. He would occasionally make appearances for Brazil, but with likes of soon-to-be World Cup clown Fred now above him in the international pecking order he seemed to get disheartened.

It was decided that a move home would be best for all parties, especially when Milan (and Miss Berlusconi) received a £12m offer from Corinthians in January 2013. Pato was off back to Brazil, but immediately upon his return he was placed under pressure to be the Pato of old, something that his accumulation of injuries meant that he couldn’t do. 

Any missed chance or poor game meant that the Corinthians fans were on his back, largely because of his big transfer fee, with the final straw for many coming when he chipped a crucial penalty straight at his old Milan teammate Dida in a Brazilian Cup shootout defeat to Gremio.

He needed to move on again, and did so to Sao Paulo in February 2014 in a complicated loan swap deal which took the former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Jadson the other way.

And since he’s been at Sao Paulo things have generally gone quite well for Pato, who has managed almost 100 appearances in two years as he’s stayed fairly free of injuries. He hit 26 goals in 2015, although he is yet to secure a return to the Brazil fold.

Talk of a Premier League move began well before the opening of the current transfer window, and although the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal were linked, it looks as though Chelsea have won the race for his signature.

Still just 26 he could still have a lot to give the Blues, although adjusting to the physical demands of English football is sure to be his biggest challenge, with whether or not he’s got the desire to do so now surely the biggest question on the minds of Chelsea fans.

Whatever happens though, this latest chapter in an eventful career promises to be a compelling one.

 

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