China proves perfect pick-me-up for Pato
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.”