Thursday, January 3, 2013

Haters Need Not Apply

There is one player who has divided Milan fans more than most in recent memory. At the age of only 23 years old, his career has transcended to the heights of scoring records and the depths of the injury list. So I suppose it is appropriate that fans’ loyalties would follow. Of course, I speak of the one and only Alexandre Pato. But this post is not for the haters. You know, the fans who blame him for being injured, or discuss his relationship with Barbara Berlusconi with base terminology and juvenile comments. Let’s just put it this way: if you are less mature than my children, please just stop reading here. This post is for people who have a reading level above the 3rd grade level, who have some form of aptitude in the art of logic, and can differentiate between opinion and fact. Haters Need Not Apply.

This is how I will remember Pato at Milan... all 67 goals worth of this

First to dispel some of the myths the Haters have spread:

Myth: Pato’s injuries are all his fault
Pato’s injuries have mainly been muscular lesions in his thighs as well as injuries to his ankles. I have heard of self-mutilation, and I know people who seem to be clumsy and have a lot of accidents, but this concept that Pato has purposely given himself muscle tears is quite far-fetched. Particularly since we’ve witnessed so many of them live on TV. In fact, many doctors have attributed the injuries to the rapid development of muscles he underwent in 2009-10. Oh, and that little game called football. All of his injuries occurred while playing or training. How that is his fault, I will never understand.

More incentive than distraction

Myth: Pato’s relationship with Barbara Berlusconi has affected his performance on the pitch
This is a strange one, because there has been no indication of this whatsoever in the realm of reality. Pato’s stats while playing have been amazingly consistent, even coming back from injuries. The saying “When Pato plays he scores” is perhaps more true than the one about Pippo being born offside. He has behaved entirely professionally on and off the pitch regarding his relationship, and his teammates have attested to this in interviews. She simply has not been a distraction.

Myth: Pato is lazy
This one is mindboggling. As poachers go, Pato runs more than most. He bulked up and became better at muscling off those pesky defenders under Allegri’s tenure, too. Then there are the double training sessions. After much harsh criticism by Allegri in the media as well as being told he needed to bulk up, Pato would often come in for double training sessions when no one else was. While injured, he was incredibly disciplined and hard working at training however he could, and his teammates have always praised him for being one of the hardest working players on the team.

If you have to go to these lengths to prove your ignorance,
you might be compensating for something

Myth: Pato is made of glass
Okay, someone actually went so far as to make a Pato figurine out of glass, just to prove this myth true. But the fact of the matter is, glass does not have muscles which tear, so this one is a no brainer. He is also not even fragile like glass, as his injuries were almost exclusively limited to the repeat muscular and tendon injuries. No broken bones, no ACL tears, no concussions, etc. No, Pato has some specific problems that are unique to his body, but he is certainly not made of glass.

Myth: Pato’s career is over
If Pato’s career is over, someone should tell Corinthians, as they’re about to drop €15m on him. No, I would venture to guess that in a healthy environment, Pato will still have a long and productive career. Sure, he may always have concerns with those thighs of his and have muscle tears again. But they aren’t career ending injuries. And anyone with a little faith can see that he is still valuable.

16 different injuries, 83 games missed since 2010, all diagrammed for you here (via @Milanello) 

Myth: Pato is useless to the club
Useless? I don’t think so. In fact, this season, despite only starting 4 games and subbing on 3 times in all competitions, he has two goals and an assist. That’s with only 5 shots taken. Those are incredible stats, particularly for an oft-injured striker. And completely out of reach for players like a certain number 10 that plays every game, shoots wihout abandon, and doesn’t score. I think Corinthians are wise to think that if they take better care of him, all of those numbers will rise, most importantly the number of appearances. Certainly, if he were to stay at the club, he would not be useless. Even Allegri has said as much, and he typically reserves most of his praise for his favorite players.

Now then, a comparison I’ve made that really makes the haters angry: Marco van Basten. He was also oft injured, plagued with ankle injuries from his very first season at Milan, but when he played, he scored, too. His first season he only made 11 appearances, then averaged 30 appearances over the next four seasons. But his sixth season he only made 15 appearances, and his final two seasons, he stayed on at the club trying to fight back from his injuries, but made zero appearances for two whole years. So he was older, and the club still kept faith in him to the tune of two years’ salary without a single appearance. Hmm. And he came to the club at the age that Pato is now: 23 years old. Milan believed in van Basten until he finally retired at age 31.

Another oft injured Milan striker who earned the faith of the club

For those of you still choking on your food or whatever and marveling that I would be so bold as to even mention such a legend in the same sentence as Pato, consider this: When van Basten didn’t get along with Arrigo Sachi, Berlusconi fired the coach and kept van Basten. That is a precedent that was set that has not been kept this time around, despite Allegri having problems with so many other players, too. The results are obvious. That Milan went on to make history (with van Basten as Capocannoniere,) this Milan is more like a crippled homeless child, with Pato not even being allowed to play when he is fit. I would not usually advocate choosing a player over a manager, but if ever there were a situation that it might be appropriate, this would have been it.

And now you will be saying, “But Pato asked to leave.” Yes, after he was put on the auction block last January for cash. After fans have mocked and harassed him for being injured and more. After Allegri has publicly criticized him and his style of play and asked him to bulk up in the first place, which is when his repeat injuries really started to happen. After he has been benched or left out of the lineup countless times due to “injury” when he was actually fit and available to play. After he has put in double sessions when no one else was, trying to prove his commitment level and improve his playing style to meet Allegri’s standards.

The kid even had a good attitude when injured, why kick him to the curb?

For me, Pato leaving is one of the biggest mistakes Milan has made in recent years, and lately, they have made so many to choose from. He is a player who is still so very young, and has developed and grown at Milan. And yet, in the current squad, he has more seniority at Milan than most of the other players. Even injured, he would be the perfect player to transition the younger players. And when you consider that his resiliency and ability to score after so many long injuries is still so impressive, I really don’t understand why we are letting him slip away. When you consider that Milan are selling him outright, and are only interested in a percentage of his future sale, it’s clear that they care more about money than the player. Only they are fools, because they are losing more money by selling him than by keeping him at this point. But they made the same choice with others, too, so we shouldn’t be surprised.

Haters are gonna hate, but Milan are absolutely losing on this one. Pato is an exemplary athlete who has been treated poorly and struggled with injuries. All the more reason for the Milan family to wrap their proverbial arms around him and show him the loyalty he deserves for his 67 goals in 5.5 years. He is also young, and so much more likely to bounce back from these consistent injuries than other players that we’ve put faith in before. Plus, his scoring prowess is simply amazing, and his speed, even after so many injuries, is still breathtaking. A loan to get out of the negative environment would make sense. But selling him outright is a mistake. I know many have lost faith in him, and I always enjoy a healthy debate, but let’s not be children about this one. Haters Need Not Apply.

Thanks to Anthony Banovac for sharing this video

This post inspired the music of Jane Siberry’s “It Can’t Rain All the Time”

Our next match is
Milan vs. Siena
Sunday, January 6 • 15:00 CET (9am EDT)