“I really don’t know which saint I should turn to at this stage. He’s been all over, from Germany to America, in a bid to resolve his fragile muscles and he’s been looked at and cured time after time. I’ve even asked my spiritual therapist to pray for him…”
Those were the disheartened words of Milan Health Co-ordinator Jean-Pierre Meersseman in April of this year, after Alexandre Pato limped off just minutes into what was intended to be his comeback from injury against Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals. After prolonged testing, the 22-year-old was ultimately ruled out for the remainder of the Serie A season. With less than a day to go before Italy’s top flight gets back into action, the Brazilian has been sidelined once again.
It all looked exceptionally promising for Pato going into his fifth season for Milan. Despite not winning the Olympic gold in London, the forward was finally playing consistently and scoring again for Brazil after his latest episode at the Nou Camp had brought his injury tally while in Italy to 15. His return to form, coupled with the fact that imposing strike partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic had made a money move to Paris Saint-Germain, cleared the way for the former Internacional man to lead the line in Massimiliano Allegri’s side this year.
Having only managed a measly 11 appearances in Serie A last term, Pato was going to be the fulcrum up front for Milan with the club’s playmakers finally directing the types of assists better suited to his style than to that of the burly Swede. The mass exodus of both legendary and prominent players from the San Siro had left a void of experience and presented an opportunity for the striker to act as a leader, despite his tender age.
But when whispers from Milan’s purpose built training headquarters just outside Varese began to filter through at Wednesday lunchtime, supporters feared the worst. Pato had clashed with a teammate and had complained of a distinct pain in his left leg. This time the dynamic forward has torn his adductor, as the club later revealed in an official statement on the matter.
The injury has ruled Pato out for a minimum of three weeks, and leaves Milan in a precarious position in light of their substandard transfer campaign. Rossoneri Vice-President Adriano Galliani and his management team have been severely scrutinised for selling the club’s prized assets Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva and not adequately replacing the pair.
Dynamic striker Antonio Cassano subsequently left for city rivals Inter during the week, with an underperforming Giampaolo Pazzini coming through revolving door and their arch rivals also receiving €7m for the transaction. Fans have been pictured holding miniature funerals for the team following the controversial swap deal. If Milan needed Pato at his best then that time was now.
The Brazilian international’s moment may have passed. It looks as if he may never recover from his countless injury issues. When the mega-rich Parisians made an offer for him in January, the only thing that kept him in Milan was his relationship with club owner Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter Barbara. Perhaps a change of scenery is the only option to revitalise a career that is currently falling apart prematurely.