The operative word in the above sentence is “if” since the 31-year-old forward has fallen off since he was scoring for fun at Serie A powerhouse AC Milan and starring for the Brazil national team.
But the potential is what’s so enticing, said MLSsoccer.com’s Matt Doyle on Extratime as clubs prepare for an April 17 start to the 2021 MLS season. Pato was signed to a one-year deal as a free agent, nabbed from the open market after his second Sao Paulo stint.
“I imagine it’s going to be like an open tryout in preseason and if Pato is healthy enough and good enough – and the first one has always been a bigger question than the second one – then he’s got a chance to make this contract look like one of the best contracts in MLS history,” Doyle said. "This flier that Orlando City’s front office took on him (could) work out great. But it’s a huge question with him.”
During his heyday, Pato well and truly was the next world-class forward from Brazil. He tallied 10 goals in 27 Seleção appearances, then sputtered out during stints at Chelsea and Villareal, leading to a Chinese soiree and return home. Injuries have been his kryptonite.
So we'll see which version of Pato the Lions get as they enter their second season under head coach Oscar Pareja. Fresh off making their first Audi MLS Cup Playoffs appearance, Pato could smooth over the short- and long-term implications of Daryl Dike’s loan to England’s Barnsley.
Either way, Doyle sees potential parallels with when Bradley Wright-Phillips came to MLS in 2013. The now-Columbus Crew SC striker enjoyed a resurgence while at the New York Red Bulls, winning two Golden Boots and reaching sixth on the MLS all-time goalscoring chart.
“That type of story where a veteran who was once a world-tier prospect – BWP wasn’t quite that level, but he was a well-regarded prospect – comes to MLS and finds his game again finds a level of happiness and achievement, those are great stories too,” Doyle said. “It’s going to be interesting to watch, but I will take the under. I do expect one of the younger kids to follow in Dike’s footsteps and win that job this year.”
For more from the Extratime crew, check out the entire episode here.