Will Milan regret their decision to sell Alexandre Pato to Corinthians? David Swan takes a closer look at the dynamics of The Duck’s exit.
It could have been worse – it could have been a January-long saga with continued back-and-forth negotiations. As it turned out, Alexandre Pato's €15m move to Corinthians was relatively painless and gives Milan the rest of the month to decide what they want to do with the money.
That the player wanted to leave – despite the emotion and obvious attachment he showed when it came to saying goodbye to his teammates – meant it was difficult for the club to keep him. And it is a blow to the new policy, one of buying young guys under 22, when one of the best exits the squad.
It is a shame that the Brazilian felt he had to return home in order to, in the words of his agent, "play with continuity," and Milan may well look back at this in a few years’ time and wonder if they could have done more to keep him.
His desire to leave seems to have been lost amongst the mercato rumours and Robinho negotiations. Did he feel he had lost his place in the starting XI? Does he think that the club has a role in his injury problems? Both are issues the outfit could have dealt with if either played a part in the move.
There has certainly been a distinct lack of confidence in Pato since his return from injury in October. He played in seven games before getting ‘injured’ again against Anderlecht, starting four and completing 90 minutes in just one of them. The consistent nature in which he was either subbed off or used from the bench suggested dissatisfaction with his performances. They were bad in some games, but the rest of the attack, apart from Stephan El Shaarawy, were putting up woeful numbers to the extent that there was no justifiable reason not to continue showing faith in the Brazilian.
At the time of Pato's return, Giampaolo Pazzini had scored in just one of his 10 appearances – a hat-trick against Bologna – and was struggling desperately, while Bojan and Robinho were goalless. It is understandable if he was just a little perturbed at players that were doing no better getting minutes in his place.
It did not help that he entered a team that was performing badly all over the pitch, with panic switches to a back three and selection changes every game. Pazzini has started to score now that the rest of the team has started playing to an acceptable level and there is no doubt that Pato, who did manage a couple of important goals during the team’s bad spell, would have benefitted too had he not been unavailable.
His last injury that caused him to miss the mini-revival now becomes much clearer in light of the transfer – specifically that he was not injured, at least not for the length of time the club would have liked us to believe, but that he was being kept away to ensure he was fit to move in January.
The other genuine injuries remain a mystery. Yet for all the setbacks he has suffered, it has not stopped two clubs – PSG and now Corinthians – from bidding for him over the past 12 months. Neither seemed particularly concerned at the sheer number of muscular ailments, and both are probably of the mind-set that it is the club, and not the player, at the heart of the problem.
It can be looked at as one of the positives of the move – now we finally get to see whether he is an injury-prone player, or if it was a Milan issue instead. If, come July, he has been tearing it up in Brazil for a couple of months, injury-free, then there needs to be some serious reflection and investigation in the summer.