Chelsea completed the loan signing of Alexandre Pato from Brazilian club Corinthians in the hopes of the forward being an adequate reinforcement that could propel them to a good second half of the season.
After winning the league as well as securing the Capital One Cup last season, Chelsea underwent a drastic dip in form this season that also saw José Mourinho get sacked. Guus Hiddink was brought in and the interim manager has done a good job in stabilising things. In fact, the London club is unbeaten under the former Holland boss. However, Hiddink knows that for his side to ensure they finish the season well, certain reinforcements have to be brought in and they’ve done just that, by securing the loan signing of once highly rated forward Alexandre Pato.
In fact, Pato was close to joining Chelsea in the past as well. It is believed that when Luiz Felipe Scolari was in charge of the club back in 2008-09, he tried hard to lure the 18-year-old Pato to join the London club. Naturally though, AC Milan weren’t keen on selling the striker they thought could dominate proceedings for a long time given the way he broke out in 2006.
At the end of 2008-09, Pato was named Serie A Young Player of the Year after he finished the season as AC Milan’s leading goalscorer. He was regarded as the next big thing and people assumed that everything they heard about the Brazilian was true after the kind of performances he had put in previously. Sadly, a series of injuries severely halted his growth and he was excluded from Brazil’s 2010 World Cup squad. AC Milan put in a lot of effort on ensuring the Brazilian could reach full fitness (for a stretch of time), but were unable to do the same so unsurprisingly, when they were offered £11.5m from Corinthians in January 2013, they decided it was time to cut their losses and sell the player while they could still make a profit on him. He scored 17 goals for Corinthians in 57 games that year, which isn’t a bad record, but his infamous penalty miss against former teammate Dida worsened his relationship with the fans, who thought he was not giving enough on the pitch, as well as some players. He underwent heavy criticism and it didn’t come as a surprise when he was shipped across the city to Sao Paulo FC.
Pato has spent the last two years on loan across the city at Sao Paulo FC. In his two years at the club, he has scored 38 goals, including 26 last year, a decent tally. What is more important however, is the fact that he has managed to avoid any major injury setbacks.
He has been used as a second striker and a lone #9 during his time with the club, but has really shown promise when used on the wings under manager Juan Carlos Osorio and he scored 11 times in 27 games being positioned on the flanks.
On the left wing, he looks for opportunities to cut inside, and has generally done well in either putting himself in a good position to score or creating chances for his teammates. He has also shown he hasn’t lost his eye for goal, which is demonstrated though his goal record which might not be as prolific, but is still extremely decent.
His work rate is the one thing that has constantly been under fire. He has been accused of not giving enough on the pitch and not helping out with defensive duties when positioned on the flanks. A full-back looks for support from a winger and Pato’s reluctance to track back has often left his left-back exposed.
It will be interesting to see where he will be used by Hiddink given he has been more successful out wide recently, but has been brought to cover Diego Costa. With Loic Remy departing for Leicester in all likelihood, it probably makes more sense to assume Pato will be used as a striker, or a second striker as he was in his first year at Sao Paulo. On paper, he looks like an able cover for the Spaniard but it must be noted that he hasn’t played since November and will take some time and preparation to regain match fitness. Therefore, the over-reliance on Costa doesn’t decrease drastically with the Brazilian’s arrival.
Considering it’s a loan signing, it’s relatively risk-free for Chelsea. The upside is that it has a potentially high reward if the 26-year-old can get going once again. As opposed to the arrivals of Fernando Torres and recently Radamel Falcao, the good thing for Pato is that there are low expectations and subsequently little pressure on him. However, he must grab this brief (for now) return to European football with both hands as it looks like a last chance for him to prove his worth at the highest level.