Friday, 13 January 2012

The Tevez and Pato transfer saga

The Brazilian nails his colours to the Rossoneri mast on Thursday, but there are many reasons to believe that the two transfers could still be pushed through before January is out

Pato & Tevez (Getty Images)

It was off, then on, then off again, and all this in one afternoon. Welcome to the January transfer window!

Alexandre Pato’s decision to snub Paris Saint-Germain and stay at AC Milan has also put the kibosh on his club’s carefully laid out plan to bring Carlos Tevez to Italy, leaving everyone back at square one with 19 days of the market still to negotiate. But to rule out the deal still going ahead may be foolish.

Often, the most frantic days are those in which nothing actually happens in the end, but to say we ended with a zero sum after Thursday afternoon’s dramatic to-and-fro would be to underestimate the desire of the Rossoneri. We've seen it before with Milan - we need only look at Kaka's final days in Italy - that a declaration of love from the player is merely used to soften the blow of the eventual departure. And let us not forget what got us to this point in the first place.

On the one hand we have Pato, the 22-year-old ‘star of the future’, ‘jewel in Milan’s crown’, and all of the other monikers he has been given since signing for €22 million from Internacional in the summer of 2007. With a little under a goal every two games, the Brazilian has built a platform from which most strikers of his age and talent would be expected to take off.

In the blue corner there is Tevez, the 27-year-old who has been labelled as a disruptive influence and a self-centred so-and-so thanks to his conduct at Manchester City which has seen him go three months without making a single appearance. His career seemingly going nowhere at the moment, he is desperate for a move in order to get things back on track.

Pato and Ancelotti | Is there still a chance they could be reunited?

It’s easy to see why many Milan fans were opposed to the deal, and why Twitter and various Calcio message boards were a virtual whitewash when news of the collapse broke yesterday. But CEO Adriano Galliani and the Rossoneri board knew all this before the window opened and yet went ahead fully intent on making the deal happen, and they did so with good reason.

There is clearly a concern at Via Turati that Pato’s one outstanding quality – his pace – is being compromised by the constant injury issues he has endured over the past few years. Since making 36 appearances in the 2008-09 season - his last under PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti, incidentally - he has missed far too many games with injuries, with muscle tears and similar leg troubles becoming the norm.

And these are the types of concerns which come back to haunt players all too often. With great pace comes great fragility, and the worry is that by the age of 25 Pato will need to become a very different kind of striker. Constant leg muscle injuries can only lead to an early slowdown, and Milan’s pursuit of Tevez as a replacement surely proves that this has crossed the hierarchy’s mind.

"If Pato wants to remain, then we hope he will do well with Milan ... Will we call Manchester City again? We'll see"

- Adriano Galliani

Can they trust Pato to become a more consistent poacher ala Filippo Inzaghi? Do they believe he can become a domineering bully like Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Clearly not, hence the Argentine became their target. They had given up on Pato. And even when Galliani announced the collapse of the deal yesterday, he was rather dismissive of his No.7.

“If Pato wants to remain, then we hope he will do well with Milan,” said Galliani, and when he later added, “I am very happy in any case that Pato has made this decision,” he quickly followed up by hinting the Tevez operation may not be dead. “Will we call Manchester City again? We’ll see.”

"With Pato, these things are going forward. There are possibilities, but not yet an agreement"

- Leonardo

His words are hardly a ringing endorsement of Pato. After this month, they may never again receive a €35m offer like the one submitted by PSG for the striker. Milan wanted Tevez, a player who is already around his peak. For around €25m they knew exactly what they would be getting. But for now they still possess the player they tried to sell in order to sign the Argentine. And with Inter being the other interested party in their target, there will be an extra incentive to reopen negotiations in a bid to stop their great rivals pouncing.

Meanwhile, PSG wanted the Brazilian, and will not give up. Ancelotti and Leonardo are known admirers from their days at San Siro, and Leo’s insistence on Thursday that “things are going forward” in relation to Pato suggests that he sees this as just another twist in the road.

The will is there for this deal to go ahead. If Thursday had been January 30, it may have been costly. Instead it was January 12. And with 19 whole days of business still to go, this is likely to be one transfer merry-go-round we haven’t heard the last of yet.

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