It was almost funny when Orlando City signed Alexandre Pato. He's the type of player that football fans across the world know, but not necessarily for the right reasons. The Brazilian forward came to prominence in the mid 2000s with Italian giants AC Milan when his mix of skill and strength looked set to take over world football. Then a rash of injuries and inconsistency sent him down a strange and somewhat disappointing career that featured stops in Brazil, China and at one point Chelsea.
Even though he was older and permanently injury prone, I always wanted Pato to play for Orlando City. It just feels right, you know? Pato was the heir apparent to Kaka at Milan and while that never panned out, it still feels like there's some kind of connection between the two. So when Pato suited up for the Lions in the season opener last season, I was ecstatic and after his performance that day I was over the moon.
And then the injury changed everything.
Pato missed almost all of the 2021 season with a prolonged knee injury and it sucked. The Brazilian looked so promising in that Atlanta United game, and surely would've helped a struggling Orlando City attack down the stretch.
Many fans questioned whether Orlando City should've even resigned the former Sao Paolo superstar after such a failed first season, but Oscar Pareja and Luiz Muzzi decided to bring back the 32-year-old, and he's earning that renewal this year.
Pato has already played over three times as many minutes as he did last season and through five games has stayed healthy. And that availability has allowed Pato to show off his ability, which he still has in spades.
The one-time Chelsea striker is probably the classiest player on Orlando City's roster and shows that on a weekly basis, with deft combinations, cheeky layoffs or impressive dribbles. He also has creative chops, with a delightful assist to fellow Brazilian Junior Urso against Portland. Pato also got his first Orlando City goal against Montreal, and he's been consistently goal dangerous with seven shots so far this year.
Alexandre Pato is no longer a superstar (at least on the field) and Orlando is not built around the former Brazilian international. But after a nightmare debut season, Pato is living his American dream and showing the Orlando City faithful the quality that made him such a prospect all those years ago.