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Hugely hyped Pato has shown flashes of a big future
Posted on Si.com from world soccer magazine.

Alexandre Pato's dynamite debut has been one of the few bright spots in what has been a mostly disappointing season for AC Milan.



By Paddy Agnew, Special to SI.com, World Soccer

As first nights go, it could hardly have been more impressive.

Suddenly, the months of media hype around 18-year-old Brazilian Alexandre Rodrigues da Silva, otherwise known as Pato, seemed justified. AC Milan's new kid on the block made a stunning Serie A debut against Napoli at San Siro on the first match day of the new year, giving an assured, mature performance that he crowned with a superb goal.

With Milan 4-2 up in the 84th minute, it appeared to be over. Not for Pato, however. Timing his run perfectly, he got on the end of a 50-meter clearance by fullback Giuseppe Favalli. Taking the ball down with one delicate touch, he outflanked both Napoli defender Maurizio Domizzi and goalkeeper GennaroIezzo to score a goal that combined all the qualities you might expect of a Brazilian superstar: touch, pace, control and sheer style.

The fans at soccer's La Scala quite rightly gave him a standing ovation. After all, the pressure had been such on this first night that no one would have been surprised if he had fallen flat on his face.

We have been hearing a lot about the teenager ever since Milan paid Brazil's Internacional $33 million for him last summer. At the time, Pato was still only 17 and, under FIFA regulations, could not be registered with a European club. But such was his promise that Milan opted to buy him anyway, putting him on ice until he turned 18 last September, when he could be put on their books. That at least meant no other club could get their hands on him.

The situation was similar to that of Pato's illustrious compatriot, Kaká, four years ago. Worried by the potentially tempting offers that might be being made to him by Chelsea and Real Madrid, Milan had brought Kaká to Italy one year ahead of schedule.

Soon the word was out about Pato. Milan has a new superstar. This lad can do everything in training. He is fast, plays off either foot and scores goals non-stop. Soon, too, the folks at the club's Milanello training complex started to speak about how things would be, later in the season, when Pato could finally play for them.

When the Brazilian returned from his Christmas break, reporters were at Malpensa airport to meet him. That day will probably be the last Pato can walk through its arrivals lounge like any other passenger.

In the meantime, the pressure on the "boy" was building as coach CarloAncelotti likened him to former Brazilian ace Careca; "old man" Paolo Maldini commented on the Brazilian's "ability, speed and personality"; and two days before Pato's debut, battling midfielder Gennaro Gattuso said: "He's just an 18-year-old, but we expect a lot of him because in the four months he has been training with us at Milanello, he has shown us a lot."

This was an ominously heavy build-up, and the list of great names that have flopped on their Serie A debuts includes such luminaries as Michel Platini, Zinédine Zidane and Ronaldo.

Instead, Pato shone against Napoli. "I have never seen anyone make a start like that," said former Milan and Brazil striker José Altafini. "He was under huge pressure, yet he played with total calm. I tell you, this boy has personality."

"Pato-mania" broke out among the Milan fans, who had invented a new term for the team's Brazilian strike force: Ka-Pa-Ro -- Kaká, Pato and Ronaldo. (That lethal trio has, of course, been shelved as Ronaldo recovers from yet another injury.)

Two weeks later, Pato scored both goals in Milan's 2-0 home Serie A win over Genoa. The following weekend, he scored the only goal at Fiorentina, another brilliantly effort that again underlined his touch, pace and control. But a few minutes later, Pato injured an ankle which also cost him the chance of a senior Brazil debut against the Republic of Ireland last month.

Once again, the anticipation rose ahead of his return to action in the first leg on Milan's Champions League loss to Arsenal late last month. But the youngster has shown he can handle it -- and then some.
 

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Looking forward to see his debut in the NT, if he keeps his head level, there's bright future in front of him, I have no doubt about that. :)
 
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