WHEN A 17-year old Alexandre Rodriguez da Silva put pen to paper with Milan a long term deal back in 2007, everyone at the club was confident about what this youth prodigy worth a staggering €22 million was capable of.
When he made his debut six months later in January, 2008 against Napoli and scored his first with much confidence and aplomb, the fans realized the same.
It wasn’t just a debut; it wasn’t just any other Serie A game. It was a love story which at that time seemed like would go on forever and help the club and the fans get over one of their own legends who had left for shores in England two seasons ago.
That he took over Andriy Shevchenko’s famed number ‘7’ jersey had its very own significance.
Four seasons later last summer, yet again he took over the responsibility of taking forward another one of Rossoneri’s legends, sacrificing his pet jersey for Pippo Inzaghi’s who had decided to call time on his illustrious career with the club to take over as the head coach of the Allievi Nazionalli.
Only this time, things had changed and so had ‘the Duck’.
Marred with no less than 16 different injuries in his five and a half years with the Diavolo, Pato slowly and gradually stopped being the player who had signed and showed promise as a teenager. Lanky and child-like back in the winter of 2008 when he first donned the red and black officially, it was easy to notice how quickly he had taken over the body of a well-built man over the years, letting many people forget that after all he was still a 22 year old.
Linked with a new club every transfer window though over the past few years, he’s gone. Some would say ‘Finally’ while for the rest, the feeling will take some time to sink-in.
So who was at fault, you may ask for this terrible break up. Was it the club, was it the fans or was it Pato himself?
Truth be told – no one’s at fault really, as it was simply not meant to be.
We can all point fingers at all the actors involved in this drama, but when introspected closely it can be concluded that each one of them gave it their best shot and after much suffering, his departure was inevitable.
From Pato’s point of view, he obviously started off well. He had the whole world at his feet for a good couple of seasons as late as 2011, when he was scoring at a good enough rate despite his injuries which were not as niggling as they were in the last one and half seasons. Clubs around Europe were in awe of this wonder kid, and envious of Milan for having snapped upon a player who many considered as a future legend and the Rossoneri’s future. But his body perhaps betrayed him, and the evidence of that is the uncontrolled accumulation of muscles in the upper half of his body which was too hot to handle for his legs and hence the perennial injuries that went on to later define his tenure at the San Siro.
When even the famed Milan Lab, considered the best in the world with the secret recipe for extending many a player’s career – be it Paolo Maldini or Filippo Inzaghi – couldn’t find an answer to his problems, perhaps it was clear that his problem were not normal. When sent to the US, a professor remarked that probably it was all in his brain but every time he tried to make a comeback he made a tearful retreat to the treatment table.
He did the best he could. One should not forget that with over 160 matches for Milan and over 50 goals he’s already one of the most experienced players to have played in the Serie A. But there’s only so much a ’22-year old’ can take.
His much awaited comeback this season was never going to be easy and as it so happened, definitely ended his stint in Italy.
As for the fans, he was their beloved. It wasn’t just Pato who shed a tear every time there was an injury. With every drop shed by the Brazilian, there were thousands shed by the fans who always saw him as the one to carry the club forward, the one to usher the beginning of a new era in the club’s history.
With every goal, he took a step closer towards the Rossoneri faithful – then be it that superb brace against Read Madrid at the Bernabeau or the brilliant solo against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. And that’s one reason why every time he went out of action, his return was much anticipated by one and all and it would be safe to bet that despite the sad end to this love affair, the majority still feels dejected that he is no longer a part of the club.
Perhaps, the rise of another wonder kid in Stephan El Shaarawy took away some of the attention the Brazilian international got from the fans but he was, is and will always be loved the same way – never mind the fact that he was booed for the missed penalty against Fiorentina. That was just a part and parcel of being loved so dearly over the years.
Talking about Milan as a club, it must be said that what they have done for Pato is nothing but commendable and for that they should be respected as they have done nothing but strengthened their image as club that is more like a family.
He was their baby, albeit an expensive one but theirs nevertheless. It’s a different thing that it stopped clicking after a few years but Milan as they always have with any player over the years in the Berlusconi era, stood by him every step of the way.
Resisting a multimillion dollar bid in the excess of over 30-40 million dollars every summer and winter for an injury prone player is simply not that easy. They could have sold him to PSG last January, and perhaps one of Thiago Silva or Zlatan Ibrahimovic would still have stayed at the club, not to forget that Carlos Tevez’s arrival hinged upon that deal with the Arabs. But Pato asked for another chance, and it was granted without a second thought.
He was chased by Carlo Ancelotti back in 2010 with Chelsea willing to pay over €50 million, but the London based club was greeted with a simple ‘Thanks, but he is not for sale’. Roman Abromavich gave it another shot, but every time there was an enquiry the answer was a firm ‘No’.
That is testimony to how much the club believed in him and how much it values its culture of being a club that treats its players like a family. Any other club would have gotten rid of him a long time back given his recurring injuries and declining transfer value and it would have made sense, but not at Milan.
They have finally sold him this winter for a mere €15 million when they could have earned almost double of that last winter, but still Berlusconi’s biggest regret is not the money that the club has lost in this transfer but the fact that his problems could not be fixed and the club failed in its attempt to keep hold of its baby.
He asked for a chance last winter, and it was granted. This time around he asked for a change and that too was humbly granted. That’s where Milan are second to none when it comes to treating their players like family and not assets – the sale of Ibrahimovic and Silva was a necessity and there’s a reason why both players even today by admittance would not mind a return to the San Siro.
Berlusconi upon this deal with World Champions Corinthians commented that Pato has promised that he shall return to the club in a couple of year’s time in better shape, as a better player. Let’s just hope this promise is kept not just for the sake of the club but for the sake of the Serie A which has once again lost a star.
But whatever the case, truth be told – it’s no one’s fault.
It was just not meant to be, but if it is, it will be.