Alexandre Pato: Where Did Brazil Striker's Career Take a Wrong Turn?

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportJuly 25, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MAY 21: Alexandre Pato of Sao Paulo celebrates a scored goal during the match between Fluminense and Sao Paulo as part of Brasileirao Series A 2014 at Maracana on May 21, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images

Since Brazil's capitulation at the hands of Germany over two weeks ago now, theories have been rife as to what needs to be done to repair the damage to the nation's reputation. Who needs to be brought in, and how the best can be gained from what is generally considered a limited crop of international-class players to choose from.

The first step has at least been taken, with Dunga being handed the manager's job for a second time. His first test will be on September 5, against the Selecao's World Cup quarter-final opponents, Colombia, in Miami.

But probably the most lamented fact in the Brazilian press at present is the lack of depth in the country's talent pool. Which makes one man's omission from debate about the five-time world champions all the more astonishing—Alexandre Pato.

It is quite hard to believe the Sao Paulo forward does not turn 25 until September. His short career has seen him discarded more often than yesterday's newspaper.

Back in 2009 he was considered, alongside Keirrison, the attacking future of the Brazilian national side, quite possibly the spearhead for their 2014 challenge.

Pato is once again facing an uphill struggle at Sao Paulo.
Pato is once again facing an uphill struggle at Sao Paulo.Jonne Roriz/Getty Images
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Instead, he is currently struggling to find a place in the Sao Paulo team. The Paulista club recently added Kaka and highly rated forward Alan Kardec to their ranks, and, alongside Paulo Henrique Ganso, Luis Fabiano and Osvaldo, the former AC Milan starlet is finding it a challenge just to get out on the pitch.

The story of disappointment and unfulfilled promise is a familiar one for the 24-year-old. Injuries blighted his final years at Milan, and it was hoped a fresh start back in his homeland could rejuvenate a once enormously promising career.

Corinthians spent over £10 million to bring him to the club at the beginning of 2013 to end his Italian nightmare. It seemed like a perfect match.

The Timao were riding high on a wave of recent success. In 2011 they had won the Campeonato Brasileiro, pipping Rio club Vasco da Gama to the league title.

Pato joined Corinthians in January 2013.
Pato joined Corinthians in January 2013.Andre Penner/Associated Press

That was followed up with the Copa Libertadores crown in 2012, and a fantastic 12 months was topped with victory over Chelsea in the FIFA Club World Cup that December.

The addition of a stellar name, and a strike partner for Peruvian hit man Paolo Guerrero, threatened to take Corinthians to ever higher levels. But Pato never got going with the world champions.

Perhaps alarm bells should have been ringing when European giants Milan were willing to offload their forward while he was still at such a tender age. During what can only be described as a lean spell for the Rossoneri, Pato was still deemed surplus to requirements.

In his blog, journalist Paulo Nobre (link in Portuguese) described Pato as the worst signing in the history of Corinthians. The numbers invested in the striker were gargantuan for a Brazilian club, and just a year after his arrival, new coach Mano Menezes dispensed with him once again.

The former Brazil boss is trying to implement his own playing philosophy, similar to that he used when in charge of the Selecao. His team shape does not require a fixed centre-forward, and a trade with Sao Paulo was arranged involving playmaker Jadson, a more versatile option across the front line.

Pato was given chances by Luiz Felipe Scolari to stake a claim for a place in Brazil's World Cup squad.
Pato was given chances by Luiz Felipe Scolari to stake a claim for a place in Brazil's World Cup squad.Eugenio Savio/Associated Press

In the run-up to the World Cup, Luiz Felipe Scolari also gave the player a chance to prove his worth. He netted in the 6-0 rout of Australia last September, but he cut a peripheral figure in a wide position, as Scolari persevered with Fred as his first-choice No. 9.

Pato missed out on the 23-man World Cup squad entirely.

Now, he finds himself at the Morumbi, once again trying to rebuild a career that after enjoying a steep upward trajectory has flattened out alarmingly.

At the end of May, coach Muricy Ramalho criticised his international striker, describing him as “lost” after a league match with Atletico Paranaense (link in Portuguese).

Ramalho has used the break during the World Cup to reinforce his squad, and it looks like new arrivals could be once again at the expense of Pato.

The silver lining around the increasingly growing cloud that has become Pato's career is his age. Somewhat remarkably, time is still on his side.

Dunga, like Scolari, used a central striker in his tactical formation the last time he was in charge of Brazil. Following Fred's international retirement, if Pato can find regular game time and goalscoring form—and right now that looks a big "if"—an international future could still be his.


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