China proves per­fect pick-me-up for Pato

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

that beat Barcelona in the 2006 Club World Cup, break­ing Pele’s record as the youngest scorer in a FIFA com­pe­ti­tion.

In 2007 he made a big­money move to AC Mi­lan, where 18 goals in 42 matches saw the striker win the Serie A young player of the year award.

He earned his first cap for Brazil in 2008 and had the world at his feet.

Out of shape

But af­ter Mi­lan won Serie A in 2010-11, in­juries took their toll and Pato’s form tailed off alarm­ingly.

He moved back to Brazil in 2013 for an un­suc­cess­ful spell at Corinthi­ans, dur­ing which he was farmed out on loan to Sao Paulo and then last year to Chelsea, where he barely played any min­utes and looked hor­ri­bly out of shape.

“We are pray­ing day and night, hop­ing to sell Pato,” Corinthi­ans pres­i­dent Roberto De An­drade was quoted at the time, with Pato’s ca­reer in freefall and mount­ing doubts about his at­ti­tude and ap­pli­ca­tion.

Span­ish side Vil­lar­real picked him up for around $3 mil­lion last sum­mer but by Jan­uary this year it too had seen enough of the for­mer teen prodigy and cashed in for $21 mil­lion when Tian­jin came call­ing.

Pato, who last played for Brazil in 2013, has found his mojo with the Chi­nese club, where he has been joined by French striker An­thony Modeste, who signed last week on a two-year loan from Cologne, to form one of the most po­tent at­tacks in Asia. And it’s clear he’s lov­ing it. Fol­low­ing Sun­day’s home win, Pato in­sti­gated rau­cous cel­e­bra­tions, bang­ing a drum atop a tele­vi­sion gantry as deliri­ous fans chanted is name.

“There aren’t any play­ers who don’t make mis­takes, and he is no ex­cep­tion,” Can­navaro said.

“But he was able to cre­ate many op­por­tu­ni­ties and he has sac­ri­ficed him­self for the team. I’m not just happy; I’m also very proud of him and what he’s do­ing.”

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