60 Players for 60 Years: Alexandre Pato

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of Brazil’s first World Cup triumph in 1958, Canary and Blue is releasing “60 Players for 60 Years” — a tribute to the players, managers, and personalities who have most contributed to Brazil’s collection of continental and global trophies. The final list will include ten figures from each decade since 1958, with special attention given to the way their contributions have influenced Brazilian footballing history.

Alexandre Rodrigues da Silva aka Alexandre Pato

In November 2006, Brazil got its first taste of 16 year old Alexandre Rodrigues da Silva, more commonly known as Alexandre Pato, as he scored his first professional goal within a minute of his first appearance for Brazilian club Internacional. Pato contributed another two assists in a 4–1 rout over Palmeiras. Pato’s excellence became apparent over the next season as he scored 12 goals in his first full season for Internacional, earning him a transfer to Italian giants AC Milan in the summer of 2007 following their Champions League win over Liverpool.

Many Brazilian players struggle to adapt to life in Europe following their transfer. Over the years young talents from Brazil, such as Denilson and Kerlon, have struggled to establish themselves as consistent starters and have been forced to return to their homeland. Pato certainly does not fit into this category. From the ages of 18 to 22, Pato managed to score 50 goals in 102 appearances in an AC Milan squad consisting of football greats Paolo Maldini, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf, and Alessandro Nesta, as well as Brazilian legends Ronaldinho, Kaka, and Dida. His success as Milan’s striker earned him the 2009 Golden Boy award and his goals helped Milan win its most recent Serie A title in 2010–2011.

Unfortunately for Pato, he started to pick up muscular injuries in his thigh following the 2011 season, which persisted for years. Despite his success in Europe, fans of Brazil were never fully exposed to his brilliance. If Pato had managed to stay healthy throughout his career, who knows what impact he could have had for Brazil over the course of the past several years, particularly at the 2014 World Cup. These injuries have plagued his career, but his success as Milan’s striker cannot be forgotten. He had a lethal combination of quickness and creativity that allowed him to play a number of positions across the front line and left defenders across Europe bemused.

Pato exhibited his physical ability on several occasions in his early 20’s in Italy, although his goal against Barcelona in 2011 truly showed his ability and quickness on the ball. Following the kickoff, Pato received the ball in the midfield, flicked it past Argentine Javier Mascherano, and sped past the remaining Barcelona backline before slotting home the fastest Champions League in history past Victor Valdes. Sadly, Pato’s goal within 24 seconds is one of the last times we witnessed Pato’s brilliance. It is hard to imagine what Pato’s ceiling could have been if he remained healthy throughout his career, as he established himself as a 1 in 2 goalscorer at just the age of 20. It’s safe to say, however, he would have been one of the top strikers in Europe.

If you enjoyed this snippet, check out the full article here, and be sure to check out Canary and Blue, the Football Purists’ new podcast that covers the Brazilian National Team. The podcast covers the past, present, and future of the Seleção, providing analysis, oral histories of Brazil’s greatest moments, and discussions of the country’s greatest ever players. Follow us on twitter at @CanaryandBlueFP.

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