Wasted potential? F*ck that, Alexandre Pato has given us the maddest celebration of 2023

Alexandre Pato was tipped to become one of the best talents to come out of Brazil, become the best player in world football and win multiple Ballon d’Ors. That didn’t quite materialise.

But Pato’s early career was far from conventional. In a wide-ranging interview with The Player’s Tribune last year, the forward recalled the time before his trial with Brazilian outfit Internacional, and the experience of staying in a sex hotel the night before his trial.

“So the big day comes and we’re off to the trial at Internacional,” he said. “The chance of a lifetime. We drive up from Pato Branco to Porto Alegre, nine hours on the road. We get there and my dad realises: he can’t afford a proper hotel.

“What does he do? He checks us in at a sex hotel. Man, I had no clue!! I was too young to understand. I think our room had a tiny bed, that was it.”

Somehow, Pato made his way to Europe and AC Milan. The Brazilian became a cult hero at the San Siro, but felt his body was already beginning to fail him.

“I’d go into training thinking, I can’t get injured,” he said. “If I did get hurt, I wouldn’t tell anyone. I’d be recovering from a muscle problem, then I’d twist my ankle and play on. It was swollen like a ball, but I didn’t want to let the team down.

“I wanted to please everyone. That was one of my flaws.”

Since his years in Milan, Pato’s career has taken him to China and America; both amazing experiences culturally, but far from the epicentre of elite football.

Now, at 33, he’s back in Brazil with Sao Paulo. When his name was announced as a substitute before the match against Santos, the home fans at the Estadio Morumbi emitted a roar so loud it was thought a local dinosaur had awoken.

His introduction proved to be as dramatic and cinematic as could be expected from one of the previous decade’s biggest ballers.

Turning away from one hopelessly doomed defender, Pato floated towards the edge of the penalty area like a spider waiting for victims to fall into his meticulously-prepared trap.

It worked. Three Santos players found themselves drawn towards the ball like a Love Island contestant to the promise of boohoo fame. Pato smiled; his fiendish plan had worked.

Whipping the ball toward David, the former Serie A winner ghosted behind the static backline of Santos and slipped his finish beyond the mannequin posing as the opposition goalkeeper.

So simple, yet so brilliant. The celebration was pretty unique too.

Sao Paulo fans have shown their unwavering support by gathering around the training centre to cheer on their hero ahead of the game.

His manager, Dorival Junior, also expressed his confidence underlining the importance of Pato for the team: “Pato is an exceptional player with a lot of experience. His return is great news for all of us.

“He is ready to bring his quality, creativity and leadership to the team. We can’t wait to see him shine again.”

Fans, who remember Pato’s time in Sao Paulo from 2014 to 2015, are also delighted to have him back on the pitch.

“This is a historic moment for our club. Pato came home and we believe in him. We are behind him 100% and we are convinced that he will give us great performances,” said one fervent supporter.

For all the talk of unfulfilled potential, Pato is now in the perfect environment to enjoy the remainder of his career. And, in the relentless rat-run that passes for existence in 2023, that counts for a lot.

By Michael Lee

READ NEXT: Remembering Pato at Milan: one of the greatest wonderkids ever

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every Brazilian player with 5+ Premier League goals?