The Rise and Fall of Alexandre Pato

Talent in football and in any other part of life is a big thing. Talent can push even more forward and help you reach heights that no one before you did. We can see that with the likes of Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods or even Lionel Messi: legendary athletes that had great work ethics but also a natural gift that made things even more natural for them.

Alexandre Pato
However, talent is not everything in sport and talent alone is not going to cut it for you. A very good example of the protagonist of today's article, the Brazilian Alexandre Pato.

A young talent that left too soon

If we are going to talk about Pato's rise and fall as a promising footballer, we need to go back to the very beginning. In that regard, he was born Alexandre Rodrigues da Silva in Pato Branco (hence his nickname Pato), Brazil, in September 2nd of 1989. By the time he was 11, he joined the academy of Internacional Porto Alegre, one of the biggest clubs in his country, without never having played in a 11-a-side football game-that's how talented he was and how rated he was.

This would become a running theme throughout Pato's career. He had to leave his hometown at a very young age to try his luck at Internacional, which he later on admitted could have been a major reason for his lack of development. Regardless, he quickly rose through the ranks in the Brazilian side and won the Under-20s Championship as the top scorer at just 16 years old.

He then signed a professional contract at 17 years old and started to make waves across the world as this young, talented Brazilian striker that was hailed as the next big thing in the game. Pato made a name for himself as Internacional defeated FC Barcelona in the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup and later on winning the Recopa Sudamericana in 2007, establishing himself as one of the finest players in South America at the time.

After a couple of good seasons with Internacional, the best clubs in Europe were interested in his services and it would AC Milan, then-reigning Champions League winners, who would beat the competition for his signature. The Italian side paid 24 million Euros and Pato's European journey had begun.

Milan, rise and fall

AC Milan back in 2007 was arguably the best team in the world, and if they weren't, they were most likely in the top three. Having a world class squad with the likes of Paolo Maldini, Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo, Kaká, Cafu and so many other players coached by a legend as Carlo Ancelotti, Pato was very taken care of during his early days at the club.

His first couple of seasons went as you would expect of a young talent: he was scoring goals at a decent rate and was slowly finding his place while the senior players carried most of the burden. By the time the early 2010s arrive, Pato was slowly taking his place as Milan's starting striker and teams such as Real Madrid and Chelsea started to show interest in him around 2010 and 2011.

Then, things started to get complicated, as it often happens in these stories.

By his own admission many years later, Pato started to get distracted by the benefits of being a world class player in a world class club. The fame, the money, the women... all of that started to take his eye off the ball and that, coupled with an increasingly worrying injury record, made things all the more difficult for him to succeed.

So, the injuries and the lack of consistency crept in and that was the beginning of the end for Pato. A failed transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in 2012, where he wanted to reunite with Ancelotti, who was coaching the French side at the time, put the final nail in the coffin for his Milan career and was sold to Corinthians for 15 million euros in January of 2013.

Pilgrimage and aftermath

In his heyday around 2009 and 2010, Alexandre Pato seemed to have everything you could ask in a striker: he had power, he had pace, he had skills and had a natural knack for goals. He was even compared to Ronaldo Nazario during those days.

Stamford Bridge
Stamford Bridge - Pato's new home after his move to Chelsea
However, he was never the same after leaving AC Milan. He was decent in Corinthians and Sao Paulo, but once he left for Chelsea on loan in January of 2016, he never really got going. The same can be said of his time in Villarreal, ending up in Chinese football with Tianjin Tianhai, where he did perform, but it was a far cry of what was expected of him, initially.

After a brief return to Sao Paulo, he joined MLS team Orlando City SC and, as of this writing, has left the club after deciding not to renew his contract.

Much has been said about Pato's career and there have been a lot of reasons as to why he never lived up to the expectations that people bestowed upon him. Some argue that fame got to his head, others mention his increasing injury record and others go for outlandish reasons such as him dating the daughter of the AC Milan president, Barbara Berlusconi, so you can make of that what you will.

Regardless, there is no denying that Alexandre Pato had a lot of promise during his heyday in the mid-2000s and that those that were part of that generation have him in high regard, mainly due to the fact that is always so exciting and interesting to see a young talent rise through the ranks in such a quick and powerful manner.

At least we are always going to have that spectacular goal against Barcelona in the 2012 Champions League.
Nathan Annan is from South Africa and loves to write, and above all about his favorite sport, football. Nathan's interest in football was sparked late but after watching a few matches in his hometown of Johannesburg during the 2010 South Africa World Cup, he was hooked.