TSG’s Serie A expert Eric Giardini on one troubled duckling…
What is there to say about Alexandre Pato?
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.
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.