The Milan medical department, who have a wretched record when it comes to injury prevention, are hoping that Pato's injuries will be left in the past.
When asked about the 23-year-old Brazilian forward's progress, Rossoneri vice-president Adriano Galliani told Sky Sport Italia (via Football Italia):
He is in good shape and training well, so we’ll see when Massimiliano Allegri will use him and for how long. Pato has been out for a long time, so clearly his comeback will be a gradual process.
This article will document Pato's injury record and discuss whether or not he'll ever fulfill his potential.
Andrea Pirlo has possession, he launches a diagonal ball to Kaká, who lofts the ball toward the centre of the goal.
Alexandre Pato controls the ball with his chest. The ball drops to his right foot, he swivels onto his left, shoots and scores.
While Pato wheels away in celebration, Tomás Ujfalusi, Alessandro Gamberini, Per Krøldrup and Sébastien Frey stare at each other, pondering who to point the finger at.
As the game ended, the goal wasn't the talking point. It was Pato writhing in pain after getting his studs caught in the turf.
AC Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti informed the media of the grim news (via FourFourTwo.com): "Pato has sustained a sprain in his left ankle and it is something serious."
CNN reported: "Pato injured ankle ligaments in Milan's 1-0 win at Fiorentina on Sunday and coach Carlo Ancelotti said the teenage star could face a lengthy spell on the sidelines."
Lo and behold, the teenager was up and running 12 days later in a UEFA Champions League game against Arsenal.
Coincidentally, around the same time, 20-year-old Lionel Messi—burdened with similarly high expectations—played through the pain barrier against Celtic.
The Argentine lasted 36 minutes before limping off the field in tears after tearing another thigh muscle.
Carles Puyol blamed the media for heaping pressure on Messi (via BBC Sport):
The doctors spoke and said there was a risk of injury and you (the media) put pressure on him to play, saying that he always has to play. Now we're all left to regret the decision.
Maybe the reason why Pato keeps getting injured is because he's playing games with an injury—like Messi during his early years.
Let's explore the theory that playing through the pain barrier is the reason why Alexandre Pato is consistently injured.
Ask yourself this question: How can Pato suffer the same injury 10 times?
You don't need an MD to presume that whilst Pato may have been "clinically fit," he has played with a thigh injury whenever he has returned from a thigh injury.
Someone at AC Milan's medical department needs to be fired.
February 12, 2010 (via Reuters): "Forward Alexandre Pato and defender Alessandro Nesta have been passed fit. Brazilian Pato has not played this year after a thigh injury and coach Leonardo has frequently given his place on the right of his front three to David Beckham."
March 1, 2010 (via The Independent): "Pato then suffered an injury in his right thigh and is a doubt for Milan's Champions League tie at Old Trafford in just over a week's time."
March 22, 2010 (via Sky Sports): "AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato is likely to require several more weeks on the sidelines after tearing his thigh muscle at the weekend."
September 18, 2010 (from AFP via TheStar.com.my): "Pato suffered a thigh strain and will be out for two to three weeks."
November 12, 2010 (via UEFA.com): "AC Milan will be without Pato for the rest of 2010 after tests confirmed he sustained damage to his left thigh muscle in Wednesday's 3-1 victory at home to US Città di Palermo."
April 18, 2011 (from AP via USA Today): "AC Milan forward Alexandre Pato has been diagnosed with a right thigh strain that will keep him out for up to three weeks, imposing another obstacle for the Serie A leader to overcome in its title pursuit."
September 22, 2011 (via UEFA.com): "AC Milan will be without Pato for at least four weeks after the Brazilian international striker strained a muscle in his right thigh during Wednesday's 1-1 Serie A draw with Udinese Calcio."
January 19, 2012 (via La Gazzetta dello Sport): "Milan will be without Alexandre Pato for almost a month. An injury to a muscle at the back of his thigh (the biceps femoris muscle) during the game with Novara is less serious than first feared, but will need at least 3-4 weeks to recover from."
April 5, 2012 (via Reuters): "Milan, who last month sent the player to the United States to try and clear up his constant injury problems, confirmed that Pato had suffered a problem in his left thigh and would undergo further tests in 10 to 15 days."
August, 22 2012 (via Football Italia): "Milan striker Alexandre Pato has sustained another thigh injury in training today, so he’s expected to miss the season opener with Sampdoria."
When Alexandre Pato took 24 seconds to score against Barcelona last September, he extinguished any doubt that injuries had debilitated his rapid acceleration.
In a cameo against Sweden this August, he scored a brace. Five days ago, in a 3-2 loss to Lazio, he looked sharp as a supersub.
While 10 thigh injuries seems excessive, Pato still seems like Pato. He's only 23, so he has plenty of time to fulfill his potential.
Should he suffer a career-threatening injury, like rupturing a tendon in his knee, he's technically sound enough to change his entire playing style. Like Ronaldo Luís, who went from an explosive dribbler to an expert goal poacher, this Brazilian has that quality.
When Pato has started 15 games in a season, he has a shots-per-goal average of five or lower in league play. That's world class when you consider Cristiano Ronaldo has shot six times per La Liga goal this season.
Maybe in Pato's downtime, he can give Kevin-Prince Boateng some tips on how to finish.
Comment below with your thoughts on Pato.