Summer 2022

Former AC Milan star Alexandre Pato finding peace with Orlando City through faith in God

Alexandre Pato was supposed to be a global superstar with a cabinet full of trophies and awards. He joined Italian giants AC Milan in 2007 at the age of 17 and scored 50 league goals in his first four seasons.

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His teammates over that stretch included David Beckham, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Kaká. In 2009, Pato won the Golden Boy award as the most impressive young player in Europe. It seemed like a matter of time before he became one of the best players in the world, if not the very best.

Pato’s played a total of only 1,747 minutes in Europe’s top five leagues since those first four seasons in Italy. A seemingly endless string of injuries wrecked his confidence and led him back to his native Brazil.

He joined Tianjin Quanjian of the Chinese Super League in January 2017 to get a fresh start and clear his head following brief spells in Spain and England. He returned to Brazil two years later feeling unfulfilled by parties and a glamorous lifestyle.

Pato explained the radical transformation he’s undergone in a recent piece for The Players’ Tribune. It started with a text to an “old friend” named Rebeca Abravanel.

Soon after the two started hanging out, Abravanel brought Pato to church.

“Man, it was a revelation,” Pato wrote in the Players’ Tribune piece. “The Bible had all the answers I was looking for. I turned my head to the sky and said, ‘Lord, I no longer want this life.’

“That day my life changed forever.”

 

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He pursued a relationship with God and married Abravanel. In 2021, Pato joined Orlando City in Major League Soccer on a one-year deal.

His faith and a gut feeling convinced Pato coming to the United States was the right choice.

“I believe in God,” Pato told the Orlando Sentinel last year. “I tried to have my decision be what, in that moment, I feel in my body. I felt something speak in my head, ‘Go there and try to go get back your happiness.'”

 

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A knee injury in the season opener required surgery and Pato was limited to four regular-season appearances. He signed another one-year deal in the offseason to stay with Orlando for 2022.

“I was very excited when I came but unfortunately I had this surgery,” Pato said. “I never know what’s in God’s plans and now I have a second chance here.”

Pato posted a video to his Instagram account in March of him talking about his faith journey and the impact God’s had on his life.

“Through this positioning in God, I discovered the true love of God,” the caption read in part (translated from Portuguese). “And today it’s been 3 years since I’ve been living the most important journey of my life. Thank God I have found more and more my purpose in this life every day. Search and you will see the great love he has for you.”

 

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The 32-year-old’s played in 14 of Orlando’s 17 games this season across all competitions and made 11 starts. He netted his first goal for the club in their season-opening win over CF Montreal.

Pato recorded two goals and three assists in 14 MLS games before the international break. Orlando currently sits fifth in the Eastern Conference with six wins, five losses and three draws.

At the end of his Players’ Tribune piece, Pato explained that he’s not angry or bitter about the way his career’s played out, because his journey allowed him to find peace. And he hasn’t given up on the possibility of representing Brazil at a World Cup either.

But Pato is going to stay focused on the present and let God take care of the rest.

“These things happen on God’s time,” he said. “I live only for today. The rest is up to Him.”

Orlando City returns to action for the first time since May 28 when they visit the New England Revolution on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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