“It was hard to go to sleep, because yesterday’s game was really a dream come true,” said Alexandre Pato the day after his debut with A.C. Milan.
Pato’s joy was easy to explain. The young Brazilian forward who had just turned 18 started his tenure with the rossonero club. Milan displayed a beautiful offensive game to defeat Napoli, 5-2. Pato was finally able to play. He did it side by side with fellow Brazilians Kaka and Ronaldo –his childhood hero. And he also scored one of the five Milan goals.
Pato gambled big for Milan and Milan gambled big for Pato as well during the 2007 summer. Europe’s club champion paid a 22 million-euro transfer (almost $26 million dollars) to Brazil’s Internacional de Porto Alegre to acquire the promising forward. Milan’s President and former Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi compared Pato with Dutch striker Marco Van Basten, who was Milan’s icon in the late eighties.
The young Brazilian agreed to remain training without playing for four months before turning 18. According to calccio’s rules, a player who is not Italian can not compete in Serie A until he is 18.
But it was worth waiting. Pato showed the tifossi rossoneri what he is capable of doing on a soccer pitch, and Napoli paid the price.
“He is good, he is very good,” said Milan’s manager Carlo Ancelotti after the match. “Pato is going to make this club even bigger, and we will be responsible to take some pressure of him while he is getting started.”
“He was born to be a great player,” said Kaká. “Now we need to make sure he has fun playing the game, so he can become a star by taking one step at a time.”
Kaká knows perfectly what he is talking about. He also came to Milan in a huge gamble that worked great for Berlusconi’s club. Kaká transferred from Brazil’s Sao Paulo to Milan in 1983 when he was 21. In four seasons, the great forward led his Italian club to the Champions League title on his way to claiming FIFA’s Best Player of the World honors in 2007.
With Pato, things look as good for A.C. Milan. The patience highlighted by Ancelotti will be necessary in the player’s development, so everything that surrounds this promising forward is well taken care of. Veteran midfielder Emerson –also from Brazil- is guiding Pato in Italy, showing him around. Fans went crazy after Pato’s debut and his No. 7 red and black jersey is already a hot sale in all Italy.
But the story does not finish here, as Pato’s dreams keep coming true.
Ten days after his debut in Italy’s Serie A, Dunga, the manager of Brazil’s National Team, announced the list of players for the friendship contest that his team will have at Dublin, against Ireland on February 6. Pato was in the list for the first time in his career, taking Ronaldinho’s spot as F.C. Barcelona star is still in horrible shape. So in less than a month span, the young forward will also represent his national team: something to be proud of anywhere but especially in Brazil.
The manager is sending a clear message with this decision. He wants Pato to lead the Brazil squad that Dunga will be coaching himself in the search for Olympic gold at Beijing next summer. Dunga started his tenure as manager of Brazil’s National Team –one of the most demanding jobs in the world - by winning the America’s Cup last summer, defeating Argentina 3-0 in the championship game.
“(Pato) Could be a great player, but he is not there yet,” said Dunga. “His debut some days ago with Milan and the one he will have with our National Team is a start. But he will need to stay focus, making sure that all the noise his successes are going to generate does not get him carried away.”
It is pretty clear Pato should remain focus, and his young history tells us he will as he has never got lost in searching for the dreams that are just coming true.
When he was only 10, the new Milan star was injured during a street soccer game. The doctors saw him and detected a tumour on his arm. He did not stop playing. He would wear a cast and use long-sleeves shirts so the cast was not seen. He overcame the illness, showing great character.
Later on, he signed as a professional with Internacional de Porto Alegre, despite his father being a huge fan of archrival Gremio. Alexander though saw a better opportunity at Inter and did not hesitate to come to an agreement with them.
His decision was the right one. His team won the FIFA club’s championship in 2006 and he made his professional debut in the tournament. He started in the semi-final game against Egypt’s Al Ahly, and scored the opening goal of a 2-1 win. He also played in the championship contest in which Inter shocked powerful FC Barcelona, 1-0, with Adriano’s second-half goal.
Soccer analysts define Pato, who stands 5-11, as a forward with a lot of power, and is incredibly fast in releasing a shot on goal and is very hungry about scoring.
As a human being, Pato has already showed everyone his huge aptitude to dream: an aptitude that has Brazil’s torcida and Milan’s tifossi already dreaming.