It will be more than a month before Alexandre Pato plays his next match of football—an eternity for the striker given his woeful start to 2014 and already diminished chances of representing his country at the upcoming World Cup.
On Wednesday, as reported by Globo Esporte (h/t Sambafoot), the former AC Milan forward was packaged off to Sao Paulo on two year’s loan. Given his four appearances for Corinthians during the ongoing state championship (the threshold is three), he will have only the Copa do Brasil to contest between now and the April commencement of the Brasileiro.
That’s a maximum of four matches for Pato, who was always going to be on the fringes of the Brazil squad before his trip to competitive purgatory.
Swapping sides with the 24-year-old is Jadson, who won six Ukrainian titles and the 2009 UEFA Cup during a successful six years at Shakhtar Donetsk. The midfielder will be eligible to represent Corinthians straight away, and given his good relationship with Mano Menezes, he will no doubt be given a chance to stake a quick claim to a first-team place.
It was Menezes, after all, who first called Jadson into the Brazil setup. While the 30-year-old fell out of favour at Sao Paulo following the September appointment of Muricy Ramalho, his arrival will only help a Corinthians side desperate for anything resembling creativity in the centre of the park.
As a result of the added playing time, his own World Cup hopes have been given some fresh, if not faint, hope. Brazil are not short of midfielders, and it would likely take injuries to a handful of them for Jadson to earn a ninth cap.
Still, he’s in a better position than Pato, whose €15 million move from the San Siro in 2013 proved to be little more than a very expensive disappointment.
An underwhelming start to his Corinthians career in last season’s Paulista tournament was followed by even more frequent displays of nonchalance during the league campaign, in which he started just 17 of the 30 matches he played.
At times he appeared disinterested; at others, lazy. But all the while, he cut a figure of a high-priced mercenary without the slightest interest in his teammates, who reacted by playing pranks on him.
It all came to a head last Saturday.
Upset with Corinthians’ recent form, and that of Pato in particular, a mob of angry fans cut through the fence at the club’s training facility and proceeded to harass the players.
A club medic, who was at the facility, later referred to the incident as a “prison riot,” as per ESPNFC. Pato’s agent subsequently claimed his client no longer felt safe at the club and would welcome a change of scenery, according to the Associated Press (h/t Sports Illustrated).
(Incidentally, World Cup winner Roberto Carlos quit Corinthians in 2011 because of threats made against his family.)
But if Sao Paulo represents a fresh start for Pato, it will certainly be a gradual one.
He has little to do ahead of a March 12 Copa match away to fourth division Centro Sportivo Alagoano other than train. Unless he tears the Brasileiro apart in the few matches before Brazil boss Luis Felipe Scolari names his World Cup squad, it would seem his international career is in similar limbo.
This is how bad it’s become for Pato: He’s being paid to not play.