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Frank Tigani On January - 6 - 2012

Tevez Signing Could Spell The End Of Pato At Milan

It was not supposed to happen this way. After years as a wayward, controversial and underachieving player, this was the season when Antonio Cassano’s career finally started to show all of its glorious potential. And it did, at least until November.

The Italian champions start to the current campaign was nothing short of atrocious. A heavy loss to Napoli and a convincing defeat by Juventus saw Max Allegri’s side slide down the table. Yet, there was one truly bright spark in the midst of all the gloom; it was Cassano.

At the time when he was struck down by a most unfortunate health problem, in an attack lacking ideas and imagination, Cassano was the creative inspiration. The one Milan were increasingly relying upon to unlock defences while Zlatan Ibrahimovic struggled to find his title-winning form. He was also, and still after three months he remains the team’s leading assist provider. In fact, he is still the leading assist provider in the Serie A.

Having made such an impression while the likes of Ibra, Pato and Robinho suffered from poor form and injuries, it was meant to be that Cassano would go on to revel in his new found status as a starting player – an important one too – in Allegri’s eleven, leading Milan’s charge in Europe and in their bid to retain their domestic crown. He had also established a similar position within Cesare Prandelli’s national team. The undoubted star for the Azzurri in the qualifiers, he was also meant to be the man charged with bringing European glory back to the peninsula after 34 years.

But, it seems it was not meant to be. A rare heart condition brought on by a stroke that occurred just as Milan triumphantly returned home after conquering Rome has seen the former Giallorosso sidelined ever since. His return, originally touted to be early 2012, seems like it will be not for some time yet. Whether he will play again this season is now very doubtful as is his chances for Euro 2012.

And what a domino effect Cassano’s absence is starting to have, or at least potentially. As soon as his peculiar illness became known, rather inevitably Milan were being linked with other strikers to cover for him. The names of Amauri and Maxi Lopez were thrown about, as was even the potential return of Marco Borriello who recently just signed with Juventus.

But, there was one name that emerged as the clear favourite of Adriano Galliani and Co; it was Carlos Tevez. Unwanted by Manchester City after his astounding refusal to come on as a substitute in a Champions League fixture against Bayern Munich, the Argentine has become the second outcast from City that Milan are tempting. But, unlike the relatively straightforward affair when Robinho was brought to the San Siro, the Tevez-to-Milan move has become something of a saga and the plot keeps getting thicker.

Just this week, as has been seen many times, cross-town rivals have opted for a transfer policy of ‘let’s copy AC Milan’s transfer policy’. Just as Kaka has been linked in recent seasons with a move back to Milan, Inter have followed suit letting their interest in the former Ballon d’Or winner become known too.

And again, Inter are practicing this same policy. In the week when Milan were aiming to seal the deal for the former Manchester United ace, Inter have stepped in with a formal offer of their own. It seems no matter what, Tevez will be living in Milan very soon and even he seems to think so. If reports are to be believed, he has already found a place to live within the city centre.

But, more significant than Inter’s actions are what Tevez arrival could affect upon Milan. Originally, the idea of bringing in another striker was purely to cover for Cassano. Yet, it seems now that should Tevez arrive, Pato could very well leave.

The Brazilian is still only 22-years-old, is still one of the brightest talents in the game and one who could very well become one of the best players in the world in the not-too-distant future.

After patiently helping Pato develop since his arrival in late 2007, it is rather incredible that the Rossonero, especially given the circumstances, are seemingly willing to let him leave should the right offer be received. Would have it got to this if Cassano do not fall crook? One wonders and I suspect not.

Big spending Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly preparing a bid of about €35 million. While once upon at time it would have been fantasy football for such a hot prospect to head to Ligue 1, it no longer is. The club’s Qatari owners are determined to make the French capital club one of the biggest in Europe and they have already landed some big names, like Javier Pastore for instance who they stole from the noses of Italy’s big three last summer.

In addition to having the funds, PSG also have the men needed to convince Pato of swapping one fashion capital for another. Carlo Ancelotti, who was Pato’s first coach at Milan, is now the new boss in Paris. Then there is Leonardo, the man who as scout convinced the Italian side five years ago to sign the then 17-year-old.

Therefore, there is a real possibility that Cassano’s heart problem, that triggered the club’s search for a replacement striker and that led to their current pursuit of Tevez, who it seems is getting harder to sign by the day which in turn could lead Milan, should they remain determined to get the Argentine – and they seem to be – to start listening to offers to sell Pato in order to have the funds needed to meet City’s stringent demands.

Thus, as it has unfolded, rather than securing a replacement for Cassano Milan, in effect, could be swapping Pato for Tevez and this leads to but one question; is this really the right decision?

Tevez’s current situation at City is nothing completely new. He was also a dressing room problem at previous side Manchester United. He is a player seemingly always unsettled. He has constantly groaned about being so far away from his family, so much so that when captain at Eastlands he even contemplated retirement. On the field Tevez is a great player, but, off the field he is problematic, to say the least.

Pato, on the other hand, is well ingrained in the Milan family, as they call it. He is tied to it even through his girlfriend, Barbara Berlusconi, who is Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter. More importantly, however, he is five years younger and has immense potential. He may constantly suffer from injuries, but, this is not reason enough to let go of one of the most promising players in the game.

It may be the French league, but, Pato himself may be open to moving to Paris. After all, since returning from injury he has struggled to cement a place in Allegri’s starting eleven and this could sway him should he be needed to make a decision.

It will be a major talking point if Milan do sell Pato and sign Tevez and it could very well happen. It will be a decision that the club will constantly be scrutinised over by the media and most of all, the club’s fans, in the seasons to come. Should Pato fail to realise his potential and should Tevez all of a sudden become a loyal and professional footballer, finally, than Milan may come to feel justified in their decision. Should there be any other outcome and the decision could come back to haunt them.

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