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Chelsea Target Alexandre Pato: Europe’s Forgotten Man

According to various English media outlets, including the Daily Express, Chelsea have reached an agreement to sign Alexandre Pato from Corinthians.

This story has perhaps come out of the blue but it is clear that Chelsea need another striker to share the workload with Diego Costa. Radamel Falcao’s career at Chelsea appears to be doomed due to his failure to make a contribution combined with his injury problems while Loic Remy seems to be surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge as he has failed to make a real impact. If Chelsea sign Pato it is a gamble, but it may be one worth taking.

Pato, whose name actually means ‘duck’ in English, might be remembered by football fans for his time at Italian giants AC Milan where he became one of the most coveted strikers in world football. However, Pato was regarded as a hot prospect before his move to Italy during his time at Internacional.

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 17: Alexandre Pato of Sport Club Internacional and Iniesta of FC Barcelona battle for the ball during the final of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006 between Sport Club Internacional and FC Barcelona at the International Stadium Yokohama December 17, 2006 in Yokohama, Japan. Sport Club Internacional defeated FC Barcelona by 1-0. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)
Alexandre Pato of Sport Club Internacional and Iniesta of FC Barcelona battle for the ball during the final of the FIFA Club World Cup in 2006.

As a teenager, he became the youngest ever player to score in a FIFA-organised competition, scoring at the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup against African champions Al-Ahly at just 17 years and 102 days old. Brazilian legend Pele held the previous record, scoring against Wales at the 1958 World Cup.

Pato left Internacional and joined Milan in August 2007, but he had to wait until January 2008 to make his debut due to FIFA regulations regarding non-EU minors. It was a debut worth waiting for as he scored in his first game in Serie A during a 5-2 victory against Napoli on the 13th of January 2008. Just a couple of weeks later he scored his first brace for the club as he fired Milan to a 2-0 win over Genoa. He made an instant impact and finished the 2007/2008 season with nine goals in 20 appearances.

In the 2008/2009 season Pato’s influence grew at Milan with the aid of a full season as he became a vital part of their attack, putting together a string of impressive displays, including hitting a real purple patch scoring six goals in four games. Pato finished the season as Milan’s top scorer with 18 goals.

MILAN, ITALY - DECEMBER 21:  Pato of AC Milan celebrates after scoring during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Udinese at the Stadio Meazza on December 21, 2008 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by New Press/Getty Images)
Pato celebrates after scoring during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Udinese at the Stadio Meazza on December 21, 2008.

The 26-year-old picked up from where he left off at the start of the 2009/2010 season, scoring a brace in Milan’s opening day 2-1 win against Siena. Arguably the highlight of his career came two months later when he scored twice at the Bernabeu to guide Milan to a 3-2 victory against Real Madrid in the Champions League group stages.

In January 2010, Pato was awarded the 2009 Serie A Young Footballer of the Year award, but injury problems were about to plague a promising career. The injury curse really struck Pato during the 2011/2012 season when he injured his hamstring on three occasions, sidelining him for large parts of the campaign. Over the next two seasons Pato had various thigh and hamstring problems which severely limited his game time. Once dubbed Brazil’s next Ronaldo, Pato began to fall off the radar.

He moved back to Brazil in January 2013, where he signed for Corinthians in a €15 million deal. He scored with his first touch of the ball on his debut maintaining his reputation for debut goals. Corinthians fans had huge expectations for Pato but the pressure began to tell on the Brazilian. Fans began to turn on the striker as he missed two open goal opportunities later on in the season against Goias, which forced the manager to come out and defend him. However, the fans continued to get on Pato’s back when he missed a string of chances during a 1-0 defeat against Cruzeiro.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 03:  Alexandre Pato (L) of Brazil controls a high ball as his teammates watch on during a training session at the Joan Gamper training ground on September 3, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Perhaps Pato’s darkest moment came when he missed the last penalty in a shoot out against Gremio, which saw Corinthians knocked out of the Copa do Brasil. The penalty was described as “horrific” by many as he attempted a chip or what is known as a ‘Panenka’ and Pato was left red faced as his former Milan teammate Dida easily caught the ball, which had no power behind it.

Pato’s nightmare at Corinthians received a reprieve when he was loaned out to Sao Paulo as part of a swap deal involving midfielder Jadson going the other way.

He has since improved at Sao Paulo and has started to look more like his old self as he has steered clear of his past injury problems. Pato was heavily linked with a move to the Premier League towards the end of the previous summer when he was believed to have been offered to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur among others, with Corinthians looking to make a sale on the striker. A move never happened, but it looks like he could now be on his way to Chelsea this month.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 31: Samuel Xavier (L) of Sport Recife and Alexandre Pato of Sao Paulo in action during the match between Sao Paulo and Sport Recife for the Brazilian Series A 2015 at Morumbi stadium on October 31, 2015 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

But what could Pato bring to Chelsea? During his younger days he was a quick, agile and creative forward with excellent technical ability with a real eye for goal. He is capable of playing anywhere along the front line, where he has the ability to beat players, strike the ball well and create chances.

Pato can also score a header or two with an impressive aerial ability despite not being particularly tall. Injuries have affected his pace, fitness, consistency and mobility during the latter half of his Milan career and his time at Corinthians, as he is regarded by many as failing to live up to his unlimited potential.

However, Pato has shown promising signs at Sao Paulo that he can rediscover the attributes that made him one of Europe’s hottest properties when in Italy. It may seem like he’s been around forever but in fact he is just 26 years old so he still has time on his side to make a mark in the Premier League.

Pato would only cost £10 to £15 million so he could end up representing an extraordinary bargain if he can find his best form; or he could become the next Falcao.

It would be a gamble for Chelsea but it is a calculated risk worth pursuing.

Vincent O’Shea, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

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