USA vs. Brazil Primer: Is Pato Ducking His Talents?

As in Pato loves the nightlife….

TSG’s Serie A expert Eric Giardini on one troubled duckling…

What is there to say about Alexandre Pato?

Pato’s real passion: Berlusconi

The AC Milan striker, who currently spends more time on the training table and off gallivanting around Milan with Barbara Berlusconi than on the field at the San Siro, is the most experienced striker on this very young Brazil roster. The 22-year-old (yes, he’s only 22, it seems like he’s been around for forever) has recently been cleared by doctors after chronic muscular injuries forced him to miss the final two months of the season, which saw him feature in only 11 games and score just one goal.

After not being a part of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa under former manager Dunga, Pato has featured for Mano Menezes and is looking to show that he is fully fit and should continue to be one of a Seleção as they look forward to the Confederations Cup next summer and the World Cup in 2014.

After making only 9 appearances for club S.C. Internacional, AC Milan paid approximately €22m for the 17-year-old in August of 2007 based purely on potential and he did not disappoint. His first season in Milan saw him score 9 goals in 18 league matches. The following year he rewarded manager Carlo Ancelotti for his faith in playing him more minutes by scoring 15 goals in 36 appearances.

Is Pato already looking back at the best years of his career? So sad if true.

After that, his career, and life, took a turn. Coming off a career year in 2008-2009, Pato’s number of appearances and goals dropped (12 goals in 23 games) in 2009-2010 causing him to be left out of Brazil’s World Cup squad. The following year those numbers bounced back a bit (14 in 25) but, once again, injuries caused him to miss 13 games while Zlatan Ibrahimović and Robinho, who both arrived that summer, carried the load in his absence. Pato has had his own personal, off-the-field issues during this time frame that certainly hasn’t helped matters.

If the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons were disappointing for Pato, this past season must have been a nightmare.  Injuries caused him to have his least productive season in a Milan jersey and have started the rumors of his departure from Milan, with Paris and a reunion with Ancelotti being his most likely destination. Last January Paris-Saint Germain was rumored to be interested in Pato and that interest has not waned this summer.

No one will argue that Pato’s career hasn’t been “successful.”

However, for all of the hype and praise that Pato has received over the past few years, he could be considered a bit of a disappointment. Injuries have robbed Pato of time of the field. From January 2008 to May 2009, Pato missed 6.8% of Serie A league matches due to injury. From August 2009 to May 2012, Pato has missed an astonishing 48.2% of Milan’s league matches. So what is main theory as to why Pato can’t stay healthy and on the field banging in goals?

A growth spurt. It’s been reported that Pato has grown 3 inches and has gained almost 20 pounds since he arrived from Brazil with much of this being during his injury-filled last few seasons. His body just wasn’t ready for the physical change. While some critics may doubt this explanation, I believe it is at least plausible. We have to remember that he did come over at 17 and was still growing. Maybe now, hopefully, Pato’s body has gotten used to its new size and he can finally settle in and be a 20 goal scorer that he has the skills to be.

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14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by FulhamPete on 2012/05/29 at 11:53 PM

    As someone who put on 3″ of height and 40 lbs from 18 yrs to 19 yrs old, I can attest that playing football as your job during that time would be HELL on your femur, tibia, and all your leg muscles. If he’s done growing, however, look out…he’ll be back, and only better.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/05/29 at 11:57 PM

      It’s all mentality with Pato. He’s been out of shape, overweight. It’s a shame because, cough, pound for pound his attacking arsenal? Top 1%.

      Reply

      • Posted by EFG on 2012/05/30 at 3:01 AM

        He definitely enjoys his playboy lifestyle in Milan (see: Ronaldinho), but I don’t think the growth spurt theory can be entirely dismissed.

        Reply

        • Posted by Jared on 2012/05/30 at 6:02 AM

          It’s probably a combination of the two that led to a cycle of injury. The growth spurt would make it more important for him to take training seriously and not spend his nights pulling a Ronaldinho. Then when he picks up an injury due to the effects of the growth spurt/lack of training it will take him longer because he’s Ronaldinhoing during rehab.

          Reply

  2. Posted by dude on 2012/05/30 at 6:26 AM

    Must be hard, with all those opportunities and what not.

    I’m still convinced that Bradley and Altidore, and possibly Adu, are on the same talent level based on the u-20 world cup, but Pato got the Milan call because of his nationality. Whatever, Jozy’s still hungry, Bradley is rising, and Adu’s career might just be beginning.

    Enjoy Barbara, Pato. We’re coming.

    Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2012/05/30 at 8:06 AM

      Adu might have the same talent level but he’s never come close to harnessing that talent the way Pato has when healthy plus Pato has more physical tools. Jozy does not and hasn’t progressed at the same pace as Pato.

      Reply

      • Posted by dude on 2012/05/30 at 10:38 AM

        Pato seems to have already peaked, whereas Jozy is a target striker who will peak far later in his career. Look how long it took for Drogba to become Drogba, and not just a talented forward.

        For me, though, the difference between opportunities for young American talents is disheartening, especially when players born in America gain legitimacy the second they shun the title of “American.” Subotic and Rossi both enjoyed an upgrade in national attention when they did.

        Reply

        • Posted by Jared on 2012/05/30 at 11:55 AM

          It’s hard to say that Pato’s career has peaked when it’s been derailed by injuries. If he gets fit then who knows what can happen. Either way I would be very surprised if Jozy gets anywhere near the heights of Pato’s career just based on actual soccer skill.

          Yes, Rossi was struggling for attention while at Man Utd then transferring to Villarreal and banging in goals (sarcasm). Subotic had already signed with Dortmund prior to opting for Serbia. So at the point that both turned their backs on the US officially they were already at the clubs where they really made their name. Both would get the same respect even if they were still “American”. Both gained the upgrade in attention because their careers and the trajectory of their clubs were changing along with their progression as players. Not to mention the fact that you use Subotic as an example of discrimination against players born in America when he was actually born in Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

          I would say that Americans gain legitimacy when they start playing well. MB90, Dempsey and Donovan’s performance at Everton are proof of that. If you listen to the non red top papers in England that have writers that are more than just jingoistic morons there is plenty of respect for Dempsey and a real belief that he has the talent to do well at a Champions League club.

          There was a time when being American was looked down on and it’s not completely gone but there was also a time when Europeans looked down on imports from Africa, Asia and South America. All you need to do is read a lot of the stuff being said about Kagawa’s move to Man Utd to see that the bias against Asian players still exists.

          Reply

          • Posted by dude on 2012/05/30 at 12:36 PM

            Still disagree about Rossi and Subotic. One of the main selling points for these players leaving the US fold is the chance to not be perceived as American. Freddy was actually playing well at Benfica in limited appearances, and Dempsey had to prove his worth to every single coach in ways he shouldn’t have had to. Rossi and Subotic made career moves more than simply choosing which nationality they identified with (Rossi keeps talking about how he FEELs American, which only cheapens his cause).

            There’s definitely bias all over, but that does not remotely negate the fact that there is American bias, and the Pato situation to me is a microcosm. Adu and Jozy owned Pato’s Brazil, but the place at a prestige club was reserved for the hot Brailian prospect because that is the path of least resistance in international soccer. Meanwhile, Jozy is definitely proving his worth, and will only continue to improve as a target striker. This article questions, rightly, whether Pato is throwing something away. He is: The opportunity he was given as Brazilian phenom.

            Reply

            • Posted by Jared on 2012/05/30 at 12:56 PM

              I think you’re overrating a one off game from several years ago when it comes to these players. Adu has been dropped from many teams and it’s not because it’s American it’s because he doesn’t train hard. The same was said about Altidore even during his time with AZ.

              You’re also way overrating Rossi’s decision making considering that he never played for the US at any level and had always played for the Italian youth teams. You’re really telling me that at 13 years old when Rossi moved to the Parma academy he was thinking that he needed to play for Italy because Americans were discriminated against?

              Subotic chose Serbia because Rongen screwed up and left him off the roster for the 2007 U-20 World Cup. A team with how many stellar defenders?

          • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2012/05/30 at 2:37 PM

            The late great Chinaglia once said the main reason you did not see more American players in England was because of the stringent permitting regulations.

            Of course there is bias but European clubs have long established trusted, networks in South America, Africa and the “lesser ” countries in Europe and elsewhere.

            I’ll bet they are not so well set up in the US. But they will be because as the prices continue to go up for Brazilians and the like ,they will seek other areas where the talent is maybe equivalent but cheaper.

            Ever notice how many Japanese and Korean players are getting places in Europe?

            Reply

    • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2012/05/30 at 2:27 PM

      Pato’s story is pretty average for a Brazilian player at Milan, which has had a long history of Brazilian players. Does someone say Milan would have picked Adu over Pato if Adu had been say, either a Ghanian or a Brazilian? Maybe that happens but if so I’m sure Milan would have been very disappointed. Pato hasn’t been great but he is young yet. And besides how can you put a price on your daughter’s happiness?

      I’m actually surprised TSG is writing an article on him. There are other more interesting characters than the Duck. By the way. Last year in the Gold Cup the Mexican announcers were calling Tim Howard “pato”. They are betraying their age because they were referencing the comic book “Howard the Duck” .

      Of all the reasons I’ve heard about why Adu has struggled, bias against Americans is not one of them.

      After all he is the poster boy for being the most noted possessor of a “non-american “ soccer skill set. The most non-American, American soccer player so to speak.

      The biggest thing against Freddy was, he just was not that good.

      Since moving to Europe in 2007 the man has averaged 11 appearances, not full games but appearances, every season including his time in Philly. Hopefully, this year he raises his average.
      Whatever combination of talent, politics, contract status and sleeping with the daughter of the boss that Freddy has failed at, he is where he is and until he finds the formula to keep his butt regularly off the pine, he will always be a big disappointment.

      As I recall the guy who replaced him in the pecking order at Benfica was Angel De Maria, now of Real Madrid and Argentina fame. Maybe you’ve heard of him? I think people fail to appreciate just how competitive it is for jobs in Europe and that sheer talent alone is not the only factor that gets weighed.

      As for bias based on nationality, geez before we start jumping all over the Europeans, just look at the NBA, the NHL or MLB and tell me there are not all kinds of nationality based stereotypes for athletes. Ever hear of Jackie Robinson or Jeremy Lin? or how about “White Men Can’t Jump?”.

      Bias is bias and the Euros don’t have a monopoly on it then or now.

      Reply

  3. Posted by dude on 2012/05/30 at 1:33 PM

    It’s an opinion, Jared. Based on many observations made at various points. If you don’t believe that Americans have to overcome their nationality, or that it was a non factor in the careers of Subotic and/or Rossi, congrats, your joined by many others. I, however, can look at Dempsey’s goal bonanza and wonder what other clubs didn’t see in him before. The ceiling is being broken, mostly by Dempsey, Donovan at Everton, Bradley, and Jozy- who at AZ looks to be becoming a world class forward.

    And I think untold possibilities are handed to the obvious nationalities. And I’ll think that until some of our u-20 prospects get even remotely similar treatment.

    Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2012/05/30 at 1:42 PM

      Would the U-18/20 guys that are at Liverpool count? How about a guy like Gatt getting immediate playing time in Austria then Norway while being linked to a move to England when Ole moves on? Joe Gyau at Hoffenheim? These are all guys with much less experience than Pato had when he moved to Milan.

      You’re getting ahead of yourself if you think Jozy is on his way to becoming world class just because of one season in Holland. May I point you in the direction of Afonso Alves or Dirk Kuyt? Both guys with a lot more goals in Holland than Jozy.

      Reply

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