Once upon a time, Alexandre Pato was a can't miss future superstar. Many, myself included, believed he had the talent to be the best striker in the world. He was once the prized possession of AC Milan and the Brazilian national team, destined to become what Neymar is today.
At 26, in the very prime of his career, he's playing club soccer in his native Brazil for Sao Paulo and hasn't played for the Brazil national team since 2013. He's completely out of the world's spotlight and is seemingly never living up to his massive potential.
His fall from grace as a world class player doesn't mean he has lost his natural talent. Pato scored 18 goals in 2015 and still possesses the pace, skill, and finishing ability that had scouts and fans drooling over him as a teenager. Every transfer window he's linked with a move to the Premier League, but nothing ever materializes. Perhaps he shies away from the spotlight that he once knew and is afraid another slip up in Europe will be the end for him.
What if he could still make a big money move but not face those same pressures? Major League Soccer would seem like the perfect opportunity for him. He'd get his money and an intermediate stage to shine on without the whole world wondering about his every move.
Atlanta United need to make a splash Designated Player signing to build excitement for their inaugural season, but need to avoid aging players who are only looking for a payday. Could Pato be the best of both worlds? Here are some pros and cons of him signing in MLS and specifically with AUFC:
He's a talented, recognizable player in the middle of his prime. An attacker with explosive skills and the ability to fill the net with goals. Pato is the type of player that is worth the price of admission to the stadium on his own when he's in the mood to play. If MLS is serious about attracting top talent to the league, a player like him is a great place to start.
The baggage he carries makes him a feasible option as opposed to someone who is already entrenched in Europe and focused on Champions League soccer or making it to a very top club. Pato doesn't seem to be in any hurry to make a huge move otherwise he'd have done it already. MLS could swoop in and make him an offer he couldn't refuse and in the process get a star player for their growing league.
One thing you have to realize about Alexandre Pato is the type of players that he idolized as a young player. At one point or another, he's been teammates with Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Adriano, and Robinho. Four of the most talented Brazilians ever, but all four fizzled out way before the full lifespan of their careers ran its course. They were notorious for partying too hard, having too much fun, and not working hard enough.
It's a safe assumption that Pato was in the same boat. He was a product of his environment. Now that he's grown and matured, it's possible that he's learned his lesson. If he didn't have these type of issues he wouldn't be in this conversation and would be at a club like Real Madrid or Barcelona by now. His reputation is tarnished now, but that's what makes him so intriguing as a possible signing. If he can come to MLS and keep his head on straight, the league would be getting a top player it otherwise couldn't have.
It's much more likely that Pato ends up somewhere other than MLS. Whether it be the Premier League, China, or staying put in Brazil. However, if somehow a move does materialize, he would one-hundred percent be worth risk for Atlanta United as an impact Designated Player signing.
For those who have never seen him play, here's a highlight video for your convenience: