BEIJING (AP) Brazilian forward Alexandre Pato has signed with Tianjin Quanjian, the latest major acquisition by the Chinese Super League.
Pato posted on Twitter Monday that he was “very happy” to join Quanjian from Spanish club Villarreal. Tianjin did not immediately confirm a report in Chinese state media that his transfer fee was $19.3 million.
The 27-year-old Pato scored six goals in 24 appearances for Villarreal after playing just twice during a disappointing loan spell at English giants Chelsea. He has been in and out of Villarreal’s starting lineup amid rumors of a transfer to China.
Quanjian, promoted to China’s Super League after winning the second tier last year, also acquired Belgium’s Axel Witsel this month and is coached by former Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro.
Other prominent players lured to China include Brazilians Hulk, Oscar, Ramires and Paulinho, Colombian striker Jackson Martinez and Argentines Ezequiel Lavezzi and Carlos Tevez.
China has spent heavily to bring in international stars and build up its football infrastructure at all age levels, with the stated goal of producing a national team capable of winning the World Cup by 2050. The big contracts handed out by its clubs have raised some alarm among major European clubs that previously had no rival in signing the world’s top talent.
And skepticism is starting to grow in China. The governing body of Chinese soccer announced Jan. 16 that it would reduce the number of foreigners allowed to appear at any given time for a club from four to three, along with other steps targeting “recent irrational investments by clubs, high-figure transfer fees and salaries paid to domestic and international athletes and other issues.”
It adds that both clubs have agreed to not release the financial details of the transfer.
The 26-year-old Pato played for AC Milan from 2007 to 2013, before returning to his native Brazil with Corinthians. He played the second half of last season on loan at Chelsea in the English Premier League.
Report: West Ham shows no interest in Chelsea forward Pato
The on-loan Corinthians striker may have broken through on the scoresheet for the Blues last weekend in the team’s 4-0 win against Aston Villa, but he doesn’t believe that a single goal will be enough to stay at Stamford Bridge beyond this season.
While Pato is desperate to remain in England, the Telegraph has reported that West Ham United has rejected the opportunity to acquire the 26-year-old.
The report states that Pato’s agents have reached out to the Hammers, as well as Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham, who has also declined interest in him.
Instead, the Telegraph says that West Ham has a list of attackers that they are openly pursuing, including Marseille’s Michy Batshuayi, Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon and veteran Premier League striker Wilfried Bony.
Since joining Chelsea in late-January, Pato has made one appearance for the defending Premier League champions, which came against Villa.
With West Ham surging this season with the likes of Dimitri Payet leading the charge, the sixth place side doesn’t seem to have much of a need for Pato, who has been widely inconsistent since his days with AC Milan.
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Below is the feature article on Pato from Chelsea’s magazine.
The chances are you will have known Pato’s name long before he signed for the Blues. After all, he was a teenage sensation for club and country, impressing in Serie A with
AC Milan and joining the long line of thrilling forwards to have graced the Brazilian national team.
There is also a chance that, until his arrival here, you hadn’t heard his name too much lately. That’s because Pato has been back in his homeland, playing for Corinthians and Sao Paulo, before making his return to Europe with a loan deal at Stamford Bridge until the end of this season.
Still only 26, he is visibly excited about the move and the prospect of playing Premier League football, and as we sit down to talk to him during his first week at Chelsea, his famous boyish grin is pretty much a permanent fixture.
“I am very eager to play,” he says enthusiastically. “I am eager to train with my team-mates and to incorporate myself into the group here. I know it’s a fight against time because there is not so long until the end of the season, but I am very keen to get started.
“The first few days have been very important. To be back in Europe again at a big club like Chelsea is a dream come true. I’m very happy to be here because I have worked very hard for the last three years in Brazil.”
He arrives with the team looking to push itself back to the more familiar upper echelons of the league table and with crunch FA Cup and Champions League fixtures against top opposition fast approaching. In short, it’s an exciting period and Pato knows he will have to hit the ground running.
“The season is not over,” he states. “There is a lot to play for and a lot of things Chelsea can achieve. This sequence of better results we are having now is just the beginning of something the team can continue to build on. Since I arrived I have been made to feel very welcome, not just by the Brazilian players but everyone. The coach met me here at Cobham and introduced me to all the staff from all the different departments. He has given me the support to have a great rest of the season at Chelsea.”
Pato is a versatile and mobile player. He is always on the lookout for gaps to exploit, holes in the defence or a swift change of direction which might open up the pitch. A great many of his goals involve a sudden burst from deep, his acceleration taking him away from defenders.
Then there is the footwork in tight spaces, the body swerves and the tricks that allow him to slalom in and out of players. The Brazilian domestic season finished in early December but Pato has been keeping himself fit in preparation for a possible move during the January transfer window, and believes he just needs to get himself up to speed.
“I feel very good physically,” he tells us. “Obviously as a player you need game-time to be at your best but I feel prepared, I have been training well, and hopefully with games and time I can adapt.
“I know I only have a few months until the end of the season but what I can promise is that I am prepared to play to the best of my ability to help during the few months left of the campaign.”
He adds that, after injuries hampered his last two seasons with Milan, he has changed a few thingscand learned “what to do before training, during training, after training, even after the match.
“I learned a lot about myself and how to look after myself, and now Chelsea have opened the doors to me for this opportunity I am very happy to be back in Europe.”
As for English football, Patois well aware of the different challenges the Premier League is likely to present to him, but more than anything he is excited to test himself here. He has experience of
playing English clubs in European competition and pre-season friendly tournaments, and in the dressing room here he has plenty of friends who have been filling him in on the intricacies.
“I already knew Willian, Oscar, Kenedy and Diego Costa,” he says. “There are some players I know from friendship and others I have once played against. It’s a big thing that they can help me settle down at Chelsea. They will help me express myself with freedom and to be incorporated into the team. The players all helped me to settle in my first few days.
“I know how hard the Premier League is. Diego, Willian and the boys have been telling me that it is very hard here, but I feel I have to improvise so I can find the space on the pitch, get my timing right and get myself into spaces. I have heard a lot about the Premier League and I also had the chance to play against English opposition when I was at AC Milan. For example, I played against Chelsea in a friendly match in the USA. It’s a different league – very hard, very physical, with a lot of contact, and hopefully with my pace and ability I will be able to help the team. I’m hoping to contribute a lot and have a great time here.”
“I thank Chelsea for their support and hope I can repay this faith to the club and its fans,” Pato added.
Defending Premier League champion Chelsea has struggled for form this season and is currently 13th in the standings with Jose Mourinho having been sacked in December, seven months after he led them to the title.
Interim manager Guus Hiddink does not think Pato’s arrival is a risk, with the Brazilian international joining a forward line alongside Diego Costa, Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao.
“It’s not a gamble. Coming on loan makes it possible to view if he can adapt to the league,” Hiddink said.
Pato could make his debut away to Watford in the Premier League on Wednesday.