Pato: ''We are very united''
Alexandre Rodrigues da Silva's position as one of the most exiting young players in world football was cemented last year when he arrived in Europe to ply his trade in Serie A with AC Milan.
Better known as Alexandre Pato, or just plain Pato, the 19-year-old has adapted to life in one of the most demanding leagues in world football, thanks in part to Milan's fellow Brazilians Dida, Emerson, Kaka and new recruit Ronaldinho, all of who have helped the striker settle at the San Siro.
In a candid interview with ESPNsoccernet.it Pato reveals his thoughts on what has been a difficult start to the Serie A season, the prospect of teaming up with David Beckham, the best thing about life in Italy and the best goal of his career to-date.
Q. What do you think of the possibility of David Beckham becoming a Milan player?
A. We're all excited about it. He's a winner who will definitely help us pick up some trophies. We're becoming a team of big players. He'll have to win his place in the team though.
Q. Let's try to get this straight. Last year you played as a centre forward but this season your best position seems to be regarded as behind the main striker, yet you've been playing up top, like in the derby. What is your best position?
A. This may seem strange but I don't have a position that I love playing all the time. As long as I'm playing for Milan in attack, I don't care too much about the rest.
Q. At the start of the season you weren't scoring and seemed a bit down. How important to you was the group hug after that free kick against FC Zurich in the UEFA Cup at the San Siro?
A. I've never felt down but that moment definitely made me feel good. The whole team had been criticised after the first couple of matches in Serie A so maybe that goal signified the light at the end of the tunnel.
Q. Things are starting to come together for the team but last week you had to work hard for the points in the 3-0 win against Sampdoria...
A. Not really. I'd say we were just missing a goal in the first half and if we'd scored before half-time, things would have been much easier after the break.
Q. But at times Milan seemed to be playing without much rhythm, don't you think?
A. That depends a lot on the opposition. When we come across teams that come to defend it's difficult to find the space and get our game going. Once we have a lead then we can turn it on.
Q. Were you disappointed at being substituted at half-time?
A. No, the coach thought Kaka could add something to the team at that point but I'm happy with the way I played. I did what Ancelotti wanted though I can't score all the time.
Q. You have great talent and have already scored fantastic goals but some critics have said your movement does not always suit the team's way of playing. Would you agree?
A. Not really. I play a lot for the team because that's what the boss and my team-mates ask of me. Everyone seems to be happy with that except, maybe, for a few journalists.
Q. Against Sampdoria, Kaka changed the game. Is he the most important Milan player?
A. He's brilliant, definitely a key player for us but no footballer can win a match alone. Without teamwork, you won't get very far. Fortunately at Milan we have a lot of brilliant footballers.
Q. Milan's fitness instructor Tognaccini says Ronaldinho is only at 50 per cent of his true physical form. He's already scored three goals and the fans have taken him to their hearts. What will happen when he gets back to full fitness?
A. I'm dead happy that Ronnie's returning to his old self. He's training like a madman at the moment and he's playing for the team in matches. He'll only get better which is good news for us.
Q. Is there a worry that Ronnie is already taking the shine away from yourself and Kaka, who, let's not forget, is the world and European player of the year?
A. Well, that can be a good and bad thing. They say that we are helping him but he's also helping us by lifting the pressure. The thing about Milan is that we are very united.
Q. Do you agree with your coach who says Milan are the only team that can take the title away from Inter?
A. It's too early to say. Nobody's out of the running. Juve, Roma, Fiorentina, Lazio or even Udinese are still in it.
Q. So what's your response to (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic who says Inter are far stronger than Milan and will win the scudetto?
A. The same thing - wait and see. Everything will be settled at the end of the season and we've got the determination to be there competing right up until the very end.
Q. What's the best goal you've scored so far in your career?
A. There are three. That free kick you just mentioned, and the first two I scored at the San Siro against Fiorentina and Napoli. But, as they say, the best goal is always the next one.
Q. Is Ronaldo still your idol?
A. He'll always be. I wish him all the best wherever he wants to play, be it Italy or Brazil.
Q. Is Emerson acting as your minder?
A. Well, he's always close to me both on and off the pitch for which I'd like to thank him. I think he'll always be a friend even after Milan.
Q. You've been in Italy almost a year. What do you like best?
A. That's easy - the food. I hang out at restaurants with the boys from the team. There's always something new to taste.
Q. What's your dream?
A. To win as many things as possible with Milan and, then, to be European player of the year.
Q. And lastly, who will win the scudetto?
A. (Smiles) I don't want to tempt fate - Milan.