Alexandre Pato: What can Chelsea expect from their new Brazilian striker?

Former wonderkid has fallen a long way from promised heights

Tom Sheen@Tom_Sheen
Wednesday 27 January 2016 13:50
Alexandre Pato - Spotlight on

Chelsea are expected to complete the signing of Alexandre Pato at some point on Wednesday afternoon.

The Brazilian, 26, was once hailed as one of the best teenage players in Europe, but injuries and confidence issues means he has not been seen in Europe since bolting back to his homeland in 2012.

Pato join the Blues on an initial six-month loan, despite initial reports that he was set for a permanent move of £8million. If his loan is successful Chelsea will likely loan him for another six months, then sign him for free this time next year after his contract expires.

Reports in Brazil claim that Chelsea got cold feet on a permanent deal after they realised how desperate parent club Corinthians were to get rid of 'the Duck'.

Pato has spent the last two seasons on loan at Sao Paulo after spending just a single season with Corinthians, despite the club splashing out £12m to bring him back.

How did Pato fall so far?

Once upon a time, Pato was being hailed as the heir to the Ronaldo's throne as Brazil's next Brazilian No 9. The simple answer for his decline is injuries.

After he burst onto the scene in Brazil as a 17-year-old with Internacional, the team where he spent his youth, AC Milan - then one of Europe's true giants and the reigning European champions - decided to spend £15m to bring him to Italy.

He was already known internationally, becoming the youngest player to score in a Fifa competition when, at 17 and 102 days, he beat Pele's record by scoring in the 2006 Club World Cup.

Pato signed for Milan in August but his debut had to wait until January, where he made an instant impact for the Rossoneri. He scored on his debut in a 5-2 win and had an excellent half-season, scoring nine goals in 20 matches.

The next year, 2008-09, he was even better, scoring 18 goals in all competitions to finish as Milan's top scorer. He was named Serie A Young Player of the Year for 2009 and his good form continued over the next season and a half - despite often playing as a winger, he was able to score in double figures in each of the next two seaons. However, despite his obvious talentm niggling injuries had started to creep into his game, with regular hamstring injuries a constant scourge - he suffered three serious hamstring setbacks in less than a year which led to other trouble with his calf and thighs.

His injuries saw the quality of his game sharply decline, especially his pace which had set him apart in his younger years. Pato had been a regular under Brazil manager Mano Menezes but new boss Dunga opted not to include him in his squad for the 2010 World Cup, instead picking Luis Fabiano, Nilmar and Grafite as the strikers. In January 2012, Pato was close to joining Paris Saint-Germain but decided to stay in Milan - just days later he suffered a thigh strain that ended his season with him having played just 18 matches in all competitions.

A year later, with only seven more AC Milan appearances to his name, he joined Corinthians for a massive fee.

Pato scored with his first touch for his new club but the relationship soon turned sour and he was criticised by fans, media and even manager Tite for his poor performances. After scoring only nine goals in 30 matches he was sent to local rivals Sao Paulo on loan. He has generally been better the past two seasons, scoring 38 goals in 95 matches, helping the club finish second in the Brazilian Serie A in 2014.

Pato last played for Brazil in 2013 and is nowhere near the current squad.

What can Chelsea expect?

The first thing to note is that Pato appears to be over his injury woes. He managed to play 56 matches in all competitions for Sao Paulo in 2015 and is playing with much greater confidence and freedom of movement than he showed in his final years in Italy.

Mostly playing as a central striker who likes to drift left and right, Pato still clearly has superior skill to his opponents in what is, frankly, a poor quality league.

In the last year Pato has shown he is capable of scoring all types of goals, with his left, right and head, from inside and outside the box.

Pato can shoot with either foot and routinely showed he was able to beat a man with a flash of skill or burst of pace.

When operating wide he is a willing passer and creator and when given a one-on-one chance he has shown a cool head.

The 26-year-old is not as fast as he was, but he still has enough of a burst to take him past all but the quickest of defenders - his movement is excellent, although again, the defending in Brazil is not the best.

For the Blues this is a relatively low-risk move. Diego Costa is definitely the first-choice, the arrival of Pato does not change that at all. He is not likely to start a huge number of games and will instead be used as an impact substitute or to give Costa some rest in matches of lesser importance.

Chelsea have a complete lack of striking options with Radamel Falcao a shadow of his former self and Loic Remy, although never given a chance, proving against Arsenal that he is no longer interested in playing for the club.

By bringing in the Brazilian on loan, Chelsea get a chance to assess him and see if he really is capable of reaching the level so many thought he would as a youngster.

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