Can Alexandre Pato revive career at Chelsea?

Can Alexandre Pato revive career at Chelsea?

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Alexandre-pato
Pato last made an appearance for Brazil in 2013

Alexandre Pato was once one of football’s most prized assets before the Brazil forward’s star waned and he became one of the sport’s unfulfilled talents.

The 26-year-old Corinthians player has now moved to Chelsea on loan until the end of the season – aiming to rise again.

Blues interim manager Guus Hiddink insists the move is not a “gamble”. Here, BBC Sport analyses whether the Dutchman is right.

Wasn’t Pato meant to be the next big thing?

Pato-played-with-some-Brazil-legends
The teenage Pato played with some Brazil legends at AC Milan, scoring 51 Serie A goals

Rumours were rife at the beginning of the 2008-09 season that Chelsea’s new Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari was doing everything in his power to convince an 18-year-old Pato to join him in west London.

The World Cup-winning coach had witnessed the teenager’s breakthrough in his homeland with Internacional, his goalscoring debut for Brazil, a one-in-two goal record during his first Serie A season and a call up to the squad for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

‘Big Phil’ was sure Pato would be an instant success at Stamford Bridge. The only fly in the ointment? AC Milan were not prepared to sell a striker set to dominate Europe’s scoring charts for the next decade and beyond.

With hindsight, the Rossoneri would regret not cashing in as they had done with Ukraine legend Andriy Shevchenko two years previously, as Pato’s promising career stalled dramatically at the San Siro.

What went wrong?

Alexandre-Pato-has-suffered-with-injuries
Alexandre Pato has suffered with injuries as his career tailed off at AC Milan

Pato was named Serie A Young Player of the Year at the end of the 2008-09 season after ending the campaign as AC Milan’s leading scorer. However, during the following season and while still a teenager, his body began showing the strain.

A series of muscle injuries, including pulled hamstrings, cost him a place in the Brazil squad for the 2010 World Cup – although admittedly the exclusion of Neymar – then at Santos – was the bigger story.

Even the Rossoneri’s famed Milan Lab struggled to get Pato fit for any length of time and when an £11.5m bid came in from Corinthians the Italian outfit decided to cut their losses.

The Sao Paulo club that gave the world Rivellino – who starred for Brazil on their way to World Cup glory in 1970 – was on a high after winning their first Copa Libertadores title in 2012 and following it up by beating Chelsea in the Club World Cup later that year.

Pato joined Corinthians in January 2013, but was out the door again within 12 months. His nadir being a failed panenka penalty (a slow chip down the centre of the goal) in a Copa do Brasil tie against Gremio, the fierce rivals of Pato’s first club Internacional, that was saved by Dida, his former AC Milan team-mate.

What has he been doing lately?

Pato-won-a-silver-medal
Pato won a silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012

Pato has spent the last two years on loan across the city at Sao Paulo FC, the initial deal taking the attacking midfielder Jadson, now in China with Tianjin Quanjian, in the opposite direction.

While the strike rate has dropped to a goal every three games, Pato has been able to avoid any serious setbacks with injuries during his time with the Tricolor.

The price tag – a joint record fee for a Brazilian club along with the £11.5m paid to Boca Juniors, also by Corinthians, for Carlos Tevez in 2005 – was continually used to undermine Pato’s efforts in his homeland.

Undoubtedly the Brazilian has lost some of his pace after his time on the treatment table and the fear factor for opposition defenders has waned, but a new-found mental resilience has kept Pato amongst the goals.

Even with partisan crowds forever on his back, the forward refused to shirk responsibility and was always looking to get a shot away.

Could this be a good deal for Chelsea?

Sao Paulo FC tried to make Pato’s move to their Morumbi stadium permanent but Corinthians were keen to recoup more of the £11.5m they paid for the player than their neighbours were willing to offer.

Chinese outfit Tianjin Quanjian met Corinthians’ valuation and offered the player a salary in the region of £10m a year.

Pato refused the move, much to the chagrin of the Corinthians board, but has since signed a contract extension with the Brazilian club.

The hope on both sides is that following a successful six-month stint with Chelsea a permanent move will be forthcoming that not only suits Corinthians but also the player’s ambitions.

The 26-year-old believes he has unfinished business in Europe and Chelsea welcome a striker out to prove a point.

Pato has received criticism in Brazil for not capitalising on his talents and not showing enough passion on the pitch.

For example, the traits his Chelsea team-mate Diego Costa demonstrates when tangling with opponents are lauded throughout South America.

Pato is a different animal, but the goal remains the same – prove the doubters wrong by sticking the ball in the back of the net again and again.

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