Alexandre Pato on the Comeback Trail for Luiz Felipe Scolari's Brazil
With first-choice striker Fred sidelined for up to three months with a thigh injury, Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari has taken everyone by surprise with a call-up for forgotten man Alexandre Pato.
The Corinthians striker was handed a spot in the Selecao squad ahead of their friendlies against Australia and Portugal, and another chance to rediscover his form.
But with 11 goals in 30 appearances since January, Pato is slowly finding his feet once more and has been rewarded for his efforts with a call-up alongside Barcelona star Neymar and Atletico Mineiro's Jo.
Now 24 years of age, "The Duck" was once one of the hottest properties in Europe and promised to be among the finest forwards in the game.
But injuries and a loss of form caused a dramatic downturn in Pato's fortunes as he made just 15 appearances in his final two years at the club, with only one goal to his name during that period.
A far cry from the heights the Brazilian reached in the previous three years with 48 strikes in 105 games, collecting the Serie A Young Player of the Year award in 2009.
In fact, his decline at AC Milan was further hastened by reports of fans surrounding the player's car, although the player later denied this, after a penalty miss in a 3-1 defeat to Fiorentina in November 2012.
Pato was jeered off the pitch as he trudged off to be replaced by Giampaolo Pazzini and apologised to club supporters in the aftermath, as per Fox Sports.
It's impossible not to hear the fans' whistles in the stadium, but I'm on their side. I know how hard it is for the fans who are used to big wins and trophies.
But we are in a rebuilding phase, lots of great champions have left, so now we have to work hard and try to do our best.
Only two months later, Pato's decline at the Rossoneri became terminal, and a return to Brazil with Corinthians was agreed in the January transfer window.
The Brazilian signed for the Timao with the intention of enjoying his football once more and attempt to put his injury woes behind him with the help of the Corinthians medical staff.
Pato told Globoesporte, as per Goal.com:
I decided to come back because I felt the warmth of the Corinthians fans. That was what helped me choose. It is a new adventure and I want to give my best for the fans.
I have a four-year contract and I'm incredibly happy–I've been welcomed with open arms.
With Fluminense's Fred out of action, the stage is set for his rivals to grab the chance to spearhead Brazil's ridiculously talented attack over the coming week.
If Pato can seize his chance against Australia and Portugal, he may well work his way into Scolari's plans for the 2014 World Cup.
The player told Xinhua, as per Business Standard:
This is what I have been wanting since I came back to Brazil. My objective has always been to play for my country.
I've been able to string some games together and now I'm ready to do my best for the Selecao.
The Corinthians star will be sharing the action with Jo, with every chance of cementing a place as Fred's backup.
And with Internacional's Leandro Damiao missing out on a place in the squad, Pato has the perfect opportunity to demonstrate his undoubted talent on the world stage once more.
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