AC Milan's Alexandre Pato celebrates after scoring against Malaga during their Champions League Group C soccer match in Milan

Speaking of Brazilians, AC Milan star appears on his way back home


As if the world champions needed a boost after their recent triumph in Japan, Corinthians look set to lure a young (if struggling) Brazilian star back home, with AC Milan attacker Alexandre Pato close to a €15 million move back to Brazil.

Various sources have confirmed the agreement, with Milan president Adriano Galliani reportedly in Brazil to finalize the deal to unload the oft-injured star.

The acquisition would be part of a stockpiling from the Timão that also includes the capture of Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Renato Augusto. Pato’s soon-to-be-former teammate, Robinho, has also linked with the club, though he now appears destined to land elsewhere in Brazil.

Pato has been at Milan since moving from Internacional one month before his 18th birthday, getting off to a strong start with the club after debuting in January of 2008. Over his first three-and-a-half seasons, the 2009 Serie A Young Footballer of the Year scored 50 goals in 102 league appearances.

Over the last two seasons, muscular issues have restricted Pato to 15 games and one Serie A goal.

Corinthians chief executive Duilio Monteiro Alves expressed no trepidation about Pato’s fitness while talking up the coup.

“He is an exceptional player. Our medical department and physiotherapists are already following Pato and are going to work with him.

“We hope that in the first week of January we can give him as a gift to Corinthians’ fans.”

Regardless of the enthusiasm, Pato’s departure from Milan will be seen as a disappointment. Having started so strong at such a young age, the Brazilian was expected to develop into one of Europe’s best players. With injuries making appearances sporadic over the last two years, Pato’s become better known for his relationship with Barbara Berlusconi (granddaughter of the club’s infamous owner) than his goals.

With the emergence of Stephan El Shaarawy as Milan’s new young star, Pato’s further faded into the background. As a result, a transfer that would have been unthinkable two years ago will receive few complaints even as Milan lose near €7 million on the deal.

But even with Pato’s struggles and diminishing value, the signing is a coup for Corinthians and the Brazilian league. More and more, Brazil’s biggest teams are able to compete to bring big names back from Europe. In some cases, they can fight to prevent them from leaving in the first place.

It’s all part of the slow but now prolonged ascendence of Brazil’s Campeonato. For years we’ve heard about the power of the country’s strong currency, but when you see €15 million laid out for a player, a league’s power starts to transcend rhetoric.

Pato is just the latest example of that power, but given Brazil’s climb, he’s won’t be the last. With many of big clubs tying their own hands by overspending on players, Brazil’s giants may be as active in the winter window as some of Europe’s giants.

Klinsmann side-steps blame, calls USA-Mexico one of world’s best rivalries

Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT
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The rivalry between the national soccer teams of the United States and Mexico is one of the fiercest and most unique of its kind in the world of sports. Anyone who’s participated in, or simply attended, a competitive fixture between the two sides will immediately attest to that.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Speaking to ahead of Saturday’s clash against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, it’s quite interesting to hear current USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann describe the rivalry from his point of view, both before and after having coached in it on a number of occasions.

Before we get to that, though, Klinsmann had a bit more blame side step regarding his side’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, the USMNT’s worst-ever showing at the tournament for CONCACAF nations.

Q: What did you learn from this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, where you lost to Jamaica in the semi-finals?

A: There were so many things that happened in the tournament and decisions that were made that affected the outcome. It was difficult for the players to know what to expect. For Mexico and for Panama it was the same thing. The lesson is that you just have to roll with it and try to control the things you can.

What’s the no. 1 thing players can’t control? Who gets called into the team/plays in the games.

What was the no. 1 problem for the USMNT at this summer’s Gold Cup? Who got called up/played game after game despite performing very poorly. Ultimately, it’s what undid them in the semifinals and third-place game.

Just once — once — would it hurt Klinsmann to answer a question with an “I,” or “me,” or even “we?” The question was “What did you learn,” yet the answer always come back to “the players,” or “they,” or “them.” At this point, Klinsmann either believes he’s infallible, or he’s simply trying to see how many ridiculous statements he can get away with.

Q: You’ve been in the top US job for almost five years now and you’ve met Mexico many times. How would you define the rivalry between these countries on the pitch? Can you compare it with others you’ve experienced?

A: The USA-Mexico rivalry is one of the greats in world football. For me, it compares to Germany-Holland in terms of the intensity and emotion it brings out in the fans. As USA coach, it was a learning curve to understand how much this rivalry means to our fans. We had won some games against big nations, but the reaction from everyone to when we went down to [Estadio] Azteca and beat Mexico there for the first time was just amazing.

Q: What makes the rivalry unique?

A: What is unique is that there are so many Mexican-Americans living in the United States, so the rivalry crosses borders. We have seen many times in these last years that younger Mexican-Americans will wear a Mexico jersey to our game, and when we start doing well they take it off and have a U.S. jersey underneath! More and more they’re supporting us, and we hope to continue to win them over.

Klinsmann gets this one absolutely right. With the two countries situated right next to each other, the aforementioned immigration of so many Mexican soccer fans into the U.S., and the classic battles between the two sides over the years, USA-Mexico not only feels amazing to get one over on your rivals, but perhaps more than anything it’s avoiding that feeling of defeat, of embarrassment, of being taunted and haunted for days, weeks, months and sometimes years, that makes beating the old foe so satisfying.

Ozil, Coquelin: Arsenal can win the title this season

Mesut Ozil, Arsenal FC
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I suppose, in theory, that any Premier League club that fields a team could win the league title for a given season, so the above headline could have been written in reference to any one of 20 teams a few short weeks ago.

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Fast forward eight rounds of fixtures to the present day, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer with every passing week that it’s a three-horse race — Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United, who currently sit 1-2-3 atop the league — for the 2015-16 Premier League title.

So — and stick with me for just a second — why not Arsenal? [The crowd gasps loudly] Arsenal midfielders Mesut Ozil and Francis Coquelin believe the Gunners have what it takes to win the title this year, so why doesn’t anyone else?

Ozil and Coquelin, on Arsenal’s progression to title contenders — quotes from the Guardian:

Ozil: “We have a great team with many world-class players. Our goal is to win the Premier League and I think that this season it’s possible to do it, if we all stay healthy. But the season is long.”

Ozil: “I didn’t expect [Bayern Munich] to beat Dortmund 5-1. Their recent results show they are simply in great shape … But our victory against Manchester United was a sign: when we play and want it 100 percent, then we can beat Bayern.

“We are playing at home. Although we have respect for them, we don’t have any fear. We know how to score goals against Bayern and we can be successful. It will be difficult – but we have the potential to beat any team.”

Coquelin: “We proved a lot of people wrong. Inside the dressing room we knew we could do good things this season. We knew we could be contenders, but obviously we have to be consistent.

“We are getting stronger against the big teams. We beat City last season, now United. It’s all about consistency. The league is getting tougher, so we need to be getting results every week … We knew we had to put it right after Olympiakos and that’s what we’ve done.”

Coquelin is absolutely right — no one expected Arsenal to throttle Man United the way they did on Sunday. The Gunners acquitted themselves quite well, though it should be mentioned that Louis Van Gaal set up United to fail miserably with the immobile midfield duo of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger against a quick, dynamic Arsenal unit.

[ MORE: “Super computer” predicts final Premier League standings ]

That’s not meant to take anything away from Arsenal’s scintillating performance, because they did exactly what they should be doing against a poorly planned side — that’s not always been the case for Arsenal against top teams. The Gunners will play hosts to Man City on Dec. 19; perhaps we’ll better be able to dub them contenders or pretenders based their showing that day.