Pato Signs 1 Year Deal: Once hailed as the successor of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho for the Brazilian soccer throne, striker Alexander Pato has agreed to join Orlando City of Major League Soccer on a one year contract. It will be interesting to see if Pato is serious about making a return to professional soccer or if this is just another money grab for an MLS franchise looking to increase jersey sales and team exposure.
The MLS has long been seen as the “elephants graveyard” for older players from abroad looking to enjoy the twilight years of their careers in a low stress environment while still collecting a generous paycheck.
Where It All Began
Pato burst onto the world soccer scene in 2006 at the age of just 16 after signing for one of Brazil’s top clubs, Internacional. He would go on to break Pele’s record as the youngest goal scorer in a FIFA competition by a Brazilian player at the age of just 17. He quickly became a transfer target of many of the top clubs in Europe due to his creative footwork and clinical finishing ability.
Pato joined AC Milan, a prestigious Italian club, dazzling fans and teammates alike, picking right where he had left off in Brazil. In his first season at the club, Pato finished with 9 goals in 20 games, a momentous achievement for a teenager. As the goals flowed the expectations grew and quickly more and more was expected of the young Brazilian.
Plagued By Injuries
In 2009 Pato picked up a hamstring injury in a match against Serie A rivals, Atalanta. He was expected to miss a few weeks however this injury would nag Pato for years to come. After that first injury, Pato continued to aggravate the hamstring muscle and was unable to string appearances together without having to sit out for injury.
Between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, Pato managed to feature in just 15 matches for AC Milan, leading them to sell Pato to Sao Paulo, a drastic step down that began to foreshadow what was to come.
Over the next several years, Pato bounced around from club to club unable to consistently break into the first team anywhere he went. Many started to wonder where it all went wrong for the once promising youngster; was it the nagging injuries?
The immense pressure for a player at such a young age? A bad attitude? If I had to guess, I’d say maybe a combination of all three.
Could There Be a Revival?
At 31 years of age, Pato surely still has something to offer if he can find his once scintillating form. Regardless it is an exciting signing for all MLS fans, to have such a well-known player joining an American club will certainly make the upcoming season much more interesting.
Hopefully Pato can make a successful comeback and bless American soccer fans with the beauty and grace of the Brazilian style of play.
Orlando City kickoff their season on Saturday, February 29th at 6PM EST in Salt Lake City as they take on Real Salt Lake.
I’d be surprised if Pato were to feature in the contest due to his recent arrival and not having played competitively in several months, but hopefully he’ll join the team on the bench and give supporters something to get excited about!