Pato: I hope to emulate Ronaldo
Born Alexandre Rodrigues Da Silva, Pato is one of the most thrilling young talents in the game today. For the last two years the 19-year-old has been amassing titles and records with unerring regularity.
Pato's professional debut came for Internacional during a Brasileirao match against Palmeiras on 26 November 2006, and the youngster did not have to wait long for his impact to be felt, being involved in three of the goals and scoring the fourth in a 4-1 win. Pato left the Brazilian league for AC Milan in the summer of 2007, but not before he had collected his first winners' medals, having tasted success in the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006 and the Recopa Sudamericana a year later.
It was at Milanello, his current club's training complex, that FIFA.com caught up with the Auriverde international for an exclusive interview.
FIFA.com: Looking back to where it all began, you made your first start for Internacional in the Brazilian championship at 17. Was that a dream come true?
Pato: My first competitive game ended up being a victory that I played a big role in. I made an assist for the team and scored my first goal. My debut remains a wonderful memory.
A few weeks later, in Japan, you started against Ahly Sporting Club in the semi-final of the FIFA Club World Cup. Aged just 17 years and 102 days, you became the youngest player to score in a senior FIFA competition, beating the record set by a certain Pele. What did that mean to you?
It was huge. A month after making my debut, I heard people talking about my performances, saying: 'Pato has scored so many goals so young. He's a new phenomenon.' What was happening to me was flattering and exceptional. But reputation isn't enough alone; you also need luck and I had that too, given I went to Japan with one of the best clubs around at the time, Internacional.
You have scored a lot of goals but you also excel with your final ball. Do you see yourself more as a team player or an individual talent?
I always want to score. I repeat that over and over to myself in my head. But, if I can't manage to score goals, I need to extend myself to help my team. Football is a game of 11 players and if we don't help each other out, we don't get anywhere. If we play together, the goals come naturally.
Inter, Chelsea and Real Madrid were all interested in signing you, so why did you join AC Milan?
My choice was influenced by my family and my agent. Lots of Brazilians play at the club, such as Emerson, who I already knew. When I announced my decision to my parents, they told me: 'Off you go, we're certain you'll have a fantastic career.'
You joined Milan in summer 2007, but the rules stopped you from making your debut until the following year. How hard was that to live with?
Those four months without playing allowed me to get integrated into the squad. I took part in all the training sessions and all the away trips. I was able to soak in Italian football. After that, 2008 was a total pleasure on a personal front. I made my debut in my new colours, I scored my first goals and I kept progressing. Next year, I hope we go far in the UEFA Cup and that we'll play in the Champions League next season.
You are surrounded by Brazilians at Milan. Has that made it easier for you to settle in?
When I arrived, I didn't speak Italian. The Brazilians at the club, among others, have been incredible in helping me settle, both in sporting and non-sporting terms. To this day, we still dine together often and share the same pursuits.
One of those Brazilian players was, of course, Ronaldo, with whom you played last year. You have never hidden your admiration for him.
To play alongside him was a moment I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life. When I was a kid, out on the pitch I always used to say to my friends 'I'm Ronaldo, I'm Ronaldo,' while wearing the shirt of my idol. I hope to have a career as successful as his.
Moving on to the national team, with just one defeat and the best defence in South America, how do you think the remainder of your qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ will go?
Right now, Brazil are in a good position to qualify. We're second, six points behind the leaders. Paraguay have played some really good football and taken some very important points from difficult matches. For our part, we've dropped lots of points at home. Every home game is a challenge for our opponents. They're spurred on by the stakes and always want to outdo themselves because they're up against Brazil. As for us, we need to constantly give everything, particularly for all the people who support us. That's why every single one of my call-ups gives me joy and pride.
Your life has also been marked by some less than joyous events. At the age of ten, you were diagnosed with a tumour. How did you cope with that difficult period?
It was very painful. After the operation, another complication was discovered. I had to have several injections. It's an ordeal that is part of who I am because my mother was alongside me and we both cried together. It was really difficult. That chapter in my life made me grow up and the support of my family was crucial.
On a more positive note, how are you coping with your increasing popularity?
When I see all these people asking me for a photo or an autograph, it makes me happy. Not so long ago, I also wanted to get souvenirs of my idols. So I understand and I don't want to disappoint them, especially when we're talking about children. And when I hear my name being chanted in the stands, it fires me up to give even more on the pitch.
What are your personal goals with both club and country?
With AC Milan, my target is to win as many trophies as possible in Italy and on the international stage. With Brazil, it's to be crowned world champion! I also want to become the best player in the world.
Lastly, lots of Brazilian players have their own unique move, such as the 'elastico' perfected by Ronaldinho. Are you working on one yourself?
Now that I'm playing with Ronaldinho, it's easy for me to draw inspiration from him. As for the move, one day perhaps! The thing that characterises me most is probably the dribble at speed. Perhaps that will end up being called a Pato (laughs).