Is he finally, well and truly back? Alexandre Pato’s performance in Villarreal’s 2016-17 Europa League debut was nothing short of inspirational. Of course, let’s not get too carried away. Honestly, Pato wasn’t even the best player on the pitch. Jonathan dos Santos took home the Man of the Match award with the kind of performance Villarreal fans have come to expect from him.
And yet, Pato was a breath of fresh air for supporters. He started off quietly, a mere spectator as Armando Sadiku gave FC Zurich the lead two minutes into the match. This goal, however, seemed to serve as the wake-up call for not only Pato but for the entire Villarreal squad.
The Yellow Submarine took control of the match behind a resilient midfield and the flair of Pato and Rafael Borre up front. Behind the strength of these performers, they began their comeback.
In yet another show of his skills, Dos Santos found a cutting Pato near the box and Pato buried a beautiful strike in Andris Vanins’ net.
The face of the game changed as Pato and dos Santos relentlessly came at the Swiss defense time and time again. Ankle breaking dribbles, accurate first touches and key passes came one after another.
GOLAÇO de Pato • Europa League!Villarreal x FC Zürich: https://t.co/Im5XIw9IDE
— Seleção Brasileira (@BrazilStats2) September 15, 2016
Pato and dos Santos combined brilliantly to give Villarreal the lead. This time, it was the Brazilian striker setting up the Mexican international.
Yes, the opponent was no Barcelona, but a performance like this might just be enough to give Pato the edge he needs to solidify his spot in Villarreal’s starting XI.
His career has been a rollercoaster ride ever since he left AC Milan, and a simple look at the sums of his transfer fees is enough to hint at how his form has changed over the years.
Pato started his career playing in Brazil for Internacional, where he was promptly hailed as the next great Brazilian striker. He was sold to AC Milan for €22 million at only 17 years of age.
His spell playing for Milan was great, and his market value increased as time went on and Pato kept improving. However, somewhere along that path, he hit a wall. Whether that was the result of a myriad of injuries or a tabloid-infused lifestyle, including dating the former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter, is up to debate.
— MUSTAQBAL RADIO (@mustaqbalmedia) June 18, 2015
Either way, he ended up landing back in Brazil to play for Corinthians.
Arguably the worst €15 million transfer ever, he didn’t get used to the new club. The fans didn’t like him, and he liked them even less.
The strain between him and Corinthians was so bad that they agreed to loan him to one of their biggest rivals, Sao Paulo. Once there, Pato started giving glimpses of his glory days with Milan.
Under the guidance of Juan Carlos Osorio, he became Sao Paulo’s greatest weapon and arguably the best striker playing in Brazil at the time.
And still, just as that loan expired, everything started going downhill again. He went back to Corinthians and was then loaned to Chelsea (we all know how that went). Returning to Corinthians, his nightmare dragged on.
Luckily for him and for Villarreal, Roberto Soldado got injured, and the Spanish club was suddenly in desperate need of a new striker.
Villarreal decided to gamble €3 million on Pato, and, if Thursday’s performance proves anything to go by, it might just be that that transfer sum could be one of the best deals of the summer.