The Pato Problem

Ah, Alexandre Pato. Simultaneously our greatest hope and our greatest regret. He has divided opinions, made us think he is the next greatest thing to happen to football since the invention of the ball itself, and made us despair. He is, quite simply, an enigma. And, like an old book that we held quite dear, but is in bad shape, we need to decide on whether we should consign him to the has-been heap, or stick with him and wait for when we can unleash him. And it’s not as easy a decision as many think.

I first heard of him in 2008. Sheva had left and everything seemed gloomy. Ronaldo was brought in, and was spectacular when he could play. But something was missing. I was hoping for Fernando Torres or David Villa, or other star strikers I had heard of. So, when Milan drafted an 18 year old kid whose name meant ‘Duck’, I thought that’s what Galliani would be doing as the tifosi launched eggs his way.

BOY, was I wrong. He scored a brilliant goal on debut, and just kept scoring for fun! He brought joys to a Milan team that was just recovering from yet another failed Scudetto campaign. Sure, the Champions League win had helped loads, but all us fans were clamoring for the Scudetto. Part desire for domestic victory, part desire to wipe the smile off Moratti’s face, it was imperative for the fans to feel confident in the team again. Nobody was under any illusions about the fact that we had won the Champions League through sheer grit, rather than total domination. With Pato, and his incredible goal scoring, Milan fans could dream again.

Pato kept scoring through into the next season, and the next. The highlight came when he scored a brace at the Bernebeu in an otherwise doomed season. I thought we’d finally inherited the next messiah of world football. Messi, who?

Unfortunately, like eating a Bedfordshire Clanger (look it up), the great quickly turned horrible. At the beginning of the 2010 season, Pato seemed to have beefed up quite substantially. While everyone thought that was an excellent thing, since he would now be able to brush off challenges unlike in previous years, this beefing up came with a rather steep price – injuries. Of course, in hindsight, it made perfect sense. From a frail 18 year old, Pato was now a well built 20 year old. He wasn’t exactly The Hulk, but it was quite clear that he looked very different. Unfortunately, his style of playing wasn’t suited to his new bulk.  Everyone would’ve accepted this slight change, because the guy has some serious skills. But alas, a slight loss of pace was the least of his problems. Because as it stands now, Pato has had 14 serious muscular injuries in the past 2 years. He’s played only 11 competitive games this season, scoring only once. It’s been terrible, and this sort of form has seen the Rossoneri faithful lose their belief in him, prompting calls for him to be sold.

I’m of the exact opposite opinion. I think we’ve been very selfish with him. Sure, he gets injured, but is it HIS fault? Do you think he WANTS to be out of action for so long? He’s a footballer, for crying out loud! He loves to play, and would gladly play through the pain. But he can’t do it, and we’ve essentially put a HUGE amount of expectation on 22 year old shoulders. Imagine that…we’re talking as if the guy is finished, but he’s only 22! He has his entire career ahead of him! Would you stupid people rather he be sold, and then flourish at another club? Because let me tell you, he’s NOT going to be happy if we sell him, and this has nothing to do with him dating Berlusconi’s daughter. He has made mistakes, no question. He’s become slightly diva like. But the guy is TWENTY TWO! He’s still a kid! Cut him some slack, would you?

What’s worse is that these so called fans think that his ideal replacement is Balotelli. Are you kidding me? The guy is mad, bat shit insane. You say Pato is acting like a spoilt brat, so the alternative is to recruit a madman? Get off whatever it is you’re smoking, because it’s making you say stupid things.

My view? Keep Pato. Keep faith in the young man. Yes, he’s had a terrible year, but we’ve not even seen his potential yet. He’s wowed us for two and a half, going on three years, and he’s always delivered. His strike rate is spectacular, and his entire future is still ahead of him. I, for one, would rather he get there wearing the famous red and black jersey of Milan, than anywhere else. We should get off our high horses and remember the joys he’s brought us. Lord knows, we owe him that much.


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