What Can Orlando City Supporters Expect From Alexandre Pato?
Truthfully, no one knows! The man has become something of an enigma, with a checkered recent career. That being said, I'd be remiss if I didn't re-cap Pato's explosive early years. This is a guy who was heralded as one of the top Brazilian talents of all time.
The Brazilian striker, who rose to prominence during his time with AC Milan, where he scored 51 goals in 117 games between 2007 and 2013, has been without a club for 6 months. He left São Paulo in August of 2020, after failing to impress with 5 goals in 20 games for the Brazilian giants.
Make no mistake, Pato is a talented footballer. Though, he's perhaps flattered to deceive, given the furore that surrounded him during his early days in Brazil. He's always had ability. After storming into the global consciousness by becoming the youngest ever goalscorer at a FIFA Club World Cup Final, Pato made his move to the San Siro. The Italian club splashed out north of €20m to sign the striker. Which, in 2007, was huge money. And it was money well spent, as far as the Rossoneri were concerned.
Pato will be looking to revive an ailing career in Orlando.
Pato won the Serie A title with Milan, where he starred alongside Kaká. He also lifted the coveted Italian cup. Sadly, for Pato, this is where his career peaked. Injuries hampered his career, and disappointing loan spells with São Paulo and Chelsea followed an equally frustrating move to Corinthians. Labelling the loan spell with São Paulo might seem harsh. After all, he scored 19 goals in 59 appearances. But given how far his stock had fallen, it has to be labelled as such.
This was a man destined for stardom. For those youngsters reading this, he was arguably as highly thought of as Neymar Jr. He was that good. Footnote on the Chelsea move: his 1 and only goal was a penalty struck past a certain Brad Guzan, in a 4-0 win at Guzan's Aston Villa. A successful spell in China was preceded by another disastrous spell with Villarreal. #Checkered.
You can see why I say he has a checkered playing history, surely? His footballing career since 2013 is as questionable as Gina Carano's Instagram feed. Too soon? Nah. I'm done using the word checkered by the way. In case anyone cares. I'd say 4 times is enough for one article.
Anyway, whilst this history lesson doubtless has you on the edge of your seats, I want to address the question of what Pato brings to us now? Well, to put it bluntly. I haven't got a clue. Probably not something a writer should out in an analysis piece, right? Yeah, I thought that too. Alas, I think I have a point. None of us know how this is gonna turn out. This is a guy, who at one time, was one of the most feared strikers in Europe. It just hasn't worked out for him since. He has struggled. And the insane thing is... He's still only 31.
Regular readers will know I love a good stat. And if you break Pato's career down into numbers, they make fairly pleasant reading. The forward has 160 goals from 398 total appearances. That means he's scored in 40.2% of his games. It's not an awful record. By comparison, LAFC's Carlos Vela (similar age) has 152 goals in 438 career appearances. That's a percentage of 34.7%. Pato has scored a goal every 173 minutes during his diverse career. Comparitively, Vela has a record of a goal every 196 minutes. Pato's is not a terrible record by any means. On paper, it's very good. That being said, as ever with statistics, we need context. Pato was excellent in his earlier years. As I've already alluded to, however, it's the more recent portion of his career which is questionable.
But, all of those past misfirings don't mean it can't work out for him in Orlando.
Pato endured a torrid time in West London.
Why do I say that? Because Oscar Pareja, that's why. Our improvement has been immeasurable under the Colombian maestro's tutelage. His ability to get the best out of players, with solid coaching and empathy is second to none. He improves players. He takes players, who no one else wanted and turns them into starting calibre players. Antônio Carlos is one such example. Carlos was a bit part player in Palmeiras, playing 31 games in 3 years. Pareja turned him into one of the cornerstones of our team. There are a few players who you can throw into the mix...
Chris Mueller being the first one. Pareja turned him into a 20+ goal contribution player. Andres Perea is another. He had only played 8 professional games in his entire career prior to arriving in Orlando. He's now a full international. As is Daryl Dike. I know these players have significantly less miles on the clock than Pato. I get that, but the skills are transferable.
If Pato can get to anywhere near 50% of his best form, he could be a useful addition for the Lions. He's a player with a high soccer IQ, and who has the ability to interplay with the likes of Mauricio Pereyra and Nani. His ability to drift anywhere across the forward line, could spell trouble for opposition defences. Pato has always been a good finisher, and has technical ability. His eye for a pass, and ability to find space was a key facet of his play in Italy in particular. Pareja just has to do what no manager seems to have been able to do for years. Get the best out of Pato. If any coach in MLS can do it, it's Oscar Pareja.
People might point to Nani's declining numbers last season, and highlight that as a proverbial chink in the armour. But to do so would be negligible at best. Pareja heightened his contributions to the team in so many ways. Nani was more of a leader than in 2019. Why? Because he took on a greater role behind the scenes, cajoling his young team mates. Passing on his experience. He also had less of the burden to bear, because of the likes of Dike and Mueller. Nani's numbers weren't as high as they were in 2019, simply because they didn't have to be.
All of that's going to be a plus for Pato. He won't have to be the main guy, which might suit him a little. It might help him to be part of the supporting cast rather than the star of the show. If nothing else, he's going to bring great experience to the squad. And the guy is talented, of that there can be no question.
Who knows? Maybe this could work out. Particularly if he's signed on a GAM contract, as is being reported. What do you think? Let us know via the usual channels.
*Statistics courtesy of transfermarkt.co.uk