Ronaldo certainly picked a fine time to make his return from injury, but he was the elder statesman on Sunday as AC Milan took on Napoli at home in their first match of the new year.
On the day that wonderkid striker Alexander Pato made his debut for the Rossoneri, the fans who packed the San Siro got the chance to watch the past (though he’s still got something left in him, as he showed), the present, and the potential future of Brazilian football on display for the home side, and playing the biggest parts in Milan finally, finally getting a home win in Serie A.
The day was supposed to be all about the 18-year old Pato and his much-anticipated debut, but it was 31-year old Ronaldo, playing only for the second time this season, who stole the spotlight early on, putting the Rossoneri up 1-0 in the 15th minute with a shot that the Napoli keeper deflected high and right into the top of the net, crossing the line just before it was cleared out.
After Napoli equalized, it was the debutant who helped set up Milan’s second. He was unlucky not to get on the score sheet not once, but twice, as the keeper parried both attempts away, but the second save went right to Clarence Seedorf, whose shot found the back of the net for a 2-1 AC Milan lead just after the half-hour mark.
After another Napoli equalizer, Ronaldo found the back of the net for a second time to put AC Milan ahead for good with just seconds gone in the second half, and this time, his diving header left no doubt about whether the ball crossed the line or not.
Then it was time for the present to show why he’s the current World Footballer of the Year, as Kaka produced a fine goal to make it four. He turned, shook off his marker, and unleashed a shot that the keeper had no chance of getting to, and his finish all but sealed the three points.
But, there was plenty of time for Pato to get his deserved goal, and the future did, taking a long ball, out-muscling his marker, and firing past the onrushing keeper to complete the rout and a memorable AC Milan debut.
AC Milan 5-2 Napoli – Debut delight for Pato (74th min.)
That footballer factory of Brazil has been producing some of the best of the best for a long time, and you can bet that Carlo Ancelotti hopes it doesn’t stop anytime soon, because as long as he’s there, he’ll have at least a few in his squad, and for good reason.