Pato can't duck superstardom

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

Alexandre Rodrigues da Silva knows nothing about Sidney Crosby, but he is clearly intrigued by the mere mention of the NHL's hot young superstar.

"I would like the opportunity to meet that guy," the Brazilian soccer prodigy better known as Alexandre Pato says with a smile following a team practice at Frank Clair Stadium.

Spoken like someone who truly appreciates athletic greatness, a trait which Pato himself owns in spades. Though the shy 17-year-old with a mouthful of braces hardly gives off that air about him.

Put the latest Brazilian soccer phenom on the pitch with a ball in front of him, though, and watch the magic begin. And some of the richest soccer clubs in the world positively salivate about bringing him into their lineup.

Chelsea, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Inter Milan ... all of them are in hot pursuit of the young man who's considered the most exciting prospect to come out of Brazil since Ronaldinho, the two-time FIFA world player of the year who stars for Barcelona.

Pato's agent, Gilmar Veloz, told Britain's Sky Sports yesterday that all four clubs "have made official bids" to pry the player away from his Brazilian club, Internacional.

"We are analyzing the deals and will sit down with Internacional," said Veloz. "Then at the end of the year his future will be defined."

OFFERING BIG BUCKS

With a reported offer of $28.8 million, Chelsea is believed to be the front-runner to obtain Pato's rights. But there is the thorny issue of obtaining a work permit for him in England.

Pato doesn't concern himself with any of this. He is here for his country this month, and that's all that matters.

"I don't worry about that," Pato said through a translator. "I've got my family and (Veloz) to take care of that, so I can just focus on soccer."

All eyes at sold-out Frank Clair Stadium tonight will surely be on Pato and Brazil, which faces the U.S. in a crucial match that could decide top spot in Group D. The Americans currently lead with four points, but Brazil would claim top spot with a win.

The positoning is vital: The runner-up likely faces a second-round match with Argentina next week in Toronto, while the winner has a much more desirable path through the draw.

Pato -- which is Portuguese for "duck," a tribute to his Brazilian birthplace -- scored 94 seconds into his first professional game. He led Brazil in South American qualifying with five goals, and notched a pair in its 3-2 victory over South Korea on Tuesday.

Pato is quick to share the credit.

"I have to thank my teammates for helping me out," said Pato, who calls Brazil legend Ronaldo his favourite player. "Everyone's working together as a team to achieve the final goal (of a championship)."

That's precisely the kind of talk Brazil coach Nelson Rodrigues wants to hear from his young superstar.

"(Pato) knows he is nothing without his teammates," said Rodrigues.

Those who have witnessed the brilliance of "Alexandre the Duck" might beg to differ about that.


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