Remember Alexandre Pato? Once one of the most heralded young strikers in the world, the former AC Milan forward has spent the past few years back in his native Brazil, seeking to rekindle some of that old spark and prove to bigger clubs that he’s fit and in form enough to earn another crack at the big leagues.
Both he and his still exorbitant salary have now overstayed their welcome in Brazil, however, making both he and his current rights holders—the Brazilian giants Corinthians—extremely eager to find someone else to foot his bill. Unfortunately for Pato, the European clubs he’s most interested in joining don’t appear too interested. Unfortunately for Corinthians, Pato’s not willing to get out of their hair once and for all by accepting just any old bid for his services—not even an outlandishly lucrative one.
Pato’s and Corinthians’ respective positions are both understandable to a point. Pato always pledged to one day return to Europe, once his spell in Brazil had gotten him a good run of games to demonstrate that his legs weren’t actually made of tissue paper and could withstand the strain of a long season. The forward has indeed featured for the majority of his club’s matches in his three years back home, the first at Corinthians and the next two on loan at their city rivals São Paulo, and while his performances haven’t exactly been at the world-beating stud level he was on his way towards hitting in his teenage years in Italy, he has played pretty well. It makes sense that he’d want another shot to make it in Europe.
Corinthians, too, have a reasonable case. They bought Pato from Milan for €15 million, which is a whole hell of a lot for a Brazilian club. They had to have seen this as a sound investment: bring the then-23-year-old home, have him ball out for Timão, become a huge star in his homeland, and eventually sell him back to Europe at some inflated fee a few years down the line.
Reality didn’t quite work out that way. Pato never integrated himself into the lineup in his first season, playing 30 league matches, yes, but only about half of them as a starter and never living up to his promise. Only a year into his Brazilian experiment, Pato’s large transfer fee and his about €45,000 per week salary began looking like costly gambles that weren’t going to pay off.
The club sought a solution that offered some kind of economic relief from his salary while still protecting their investment in the long run. What they settled on was a loan to fellow Brazilian club São Paulo, who offered to pay half his salary. During his two years on loan at São Paulo, Pato did manage to stay mostly healthy and improve on his performances, but not so much as to convince many well-monied foreign clubs to swoop in and snatch him up. With the player back from loan and entering the final year of his contract, Corinthians are desperate to get some kind of return on their investment.
Pato’s people have been actively searching for a new club to finally break up this unhappy marriage. The player has been rumored as an option for all sorts of Premier League contenders, from Arsenal to Tottenham to Liverpool, as well as to even larger clubs like Barcelona. But with this idle transfer gossip leading to nothing more than additional rumors of Very Interested Suitors for a suspiciously decreasing transfer fee, it’s pretty obvious that these stories have originated from Pato’s camp and not the allegedly interested clubs themselves. The longer he goes without a concrete offer, the less likely it becomes that he’ll get his move at all.
Luckily, a potential savior has emerged—in Corinthians’ mind, at least. Tianjin Quanjin of China’s second division—one of many emerging super-rich clubs in the Asian country’s soccer system—have made a couple huge offers to the club and the player. To Timão, according to Brazilian site Globo Esporte, Tianjin Quanjin have put up a €20 million transfer fee. To Pato, the Chinese club offers an eye-popping weekly salary of about €280,000. For comparison, that’s a little more than what Chelsea’s Eden Hazard makes. (Necessary caveat: it’s not clear whether this proposed €280,000 figure is before taxes or after them, while European players’ salaries are usually the after taxes figure. This could mean a sizable change in the potential take-home pay, but either way, it is still a shit-ton of money.)
The problem here is that Pato isn’t interested. He still has dreams of competing once again on soccer’s biggest stages in Europe, and isn’t content to cash in those monstrous checks in some inconsequential league (and in the second division no less) the way his compatriots like Robinho and Paulinho and Luís Fabiano have. No, Pato wants to go back to Europe. If he can’t make it happen now, he’ll just wait it out until his contract is up in December of 2016 and try his luck again then as a free agent.
Corinthians are not happy about this. As put in the aforementioned Globo article, “Corinthians’ board remains incredulous” at Pato’s rejection. The club’s president was especially shocked at the figures on display:
“The proposal he had to go to China is a deal never before seen. If they came to buy an industry here in Brazil it would not be with such a huge offer,” said the president Roberto de Andrade, at a news conference on Thursday.
The club’s former president, Andrés Sánchez, spoke even more frankly in remarks reported by UOL Esporte, saying that Pato basically had to agree to such staggering numbers, but wouldn’t:
“The problem is that he cannot wind down another year and leave for free. If you have a proposal, you must accept. With the fans, there’s no problem. He will show up and play. What cannot happen is for him to have good proposal to the club and he did not accept, “he said.
“He will suffer. I don’t know if the fans won’t accept Pato ... what I do know is that the guy cannot do this. (...) Our hands are tied. We want to sell. If he does not want to be sold, it won’t happen. If I want to sell him for a dollar, but he did not hit it off with the club, he cannot be sold.”
Yes, interesting how that works, isn’t it. Because of how the soccer transfer market is set up, every player has what is essentially a no trade clause; if a player does not agree to a new contract with the new club, the deal cannot transpire, no matter how much the current club wants to sell. This level of player power feels like a bit of karmic justice for those of us used to American sports where so many players lack even a modicum of say as to where they play.
So sorry, Corinthians, but Pato’s not going to China. Either they’ll find a club more amenable to the player’s desires to pony up a transfer fee sure to be smaller than what Tianjin Quanjin are offering, or he’ll most likely rejoin São Paulo on loan and pick his own destination a year from now, leaving Timão to yet again pay a big chunk of his salary while he scores for one of their biggest rivals before walking out the door for nothing at the end of the season. Shouts out to Pato, for sticking to his guns.
Photo via Getty