Alexandre Pato sliced Barcelona in half with Champions League stunner for AC Milan in 2011

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Alexandre Pato is one of the biggest 'what could have been?' players in world football.

Pato: What could have been?

The Brazilian sensation was regarded amongst the world's best young players when he burst on the scene at AC Milan, but failed to ever reach the dizzy heights expected of him.

It's sobering to think that Pato is still only 31 years old when you consider that those halcyon days at the San Siro were almost a decade ago.

And since waving goodbye to the Rossoneri in 2013, Pato has embarked on something of a world tour with spells at Corinthians, Chelsea, Villarreal Tianjin Tianhai and Sao Paulo twice over.

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Pato's AC Milan days

The former Golden Boy winner most recently took to the pitch with Orlando City in the MLS, which certainly feels like a severe fall from grace to the years of early promise in northern Italy.

However, sadly, football is a brutal world and Pato certainly isn't alone in having fallen short of brutally tough expectations, so he is by no means a character that should be chastised in any way.

Rather, Pato should be proud of what he achieved in those golden season at AC Milan even if they didn't evolve into years of competing for football's biggest prizes like so many fans predicted.

And through the forever-entertaining vortex that is the YouTube algorithm, few Pato clips pop up more often than the fantastic Champions League goal that he scored against Barcelona in 2011.

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When Pato sliced Barcelona in half

One of the attributes that Pato was most revered for during his early days was his electrifying pace and seldom was it demonstrated better than on that mid-week evening at Camp Nou.

That's because Pato remarkably fired AC Milan into the lead within just 24 seconds of the game by essentially deciding to outrun Barca's midfield and defence to set up a one-on-one opportunity.

And considering that this was a Pep Guardiola side who had won the Champions League just a few months earlier, it's no mean feat that Pato duly applied the finishing touch for a lightning start.

It really does make for the real-life incarnation of the phrase 'like a knife through butter', so be sure to check out the moment that Pato sliced a prime Barcelona in half down below:

Choo. Choo. There's no catching the runaway train.

Barcelona 2-2 AC Milan

In the end, Pato's goal proved absolutely vital in a 2-2 draw with Thiago Silva later scoring a stoppage-time equaliser that cancelled out fightback strikes from Pedro and David Villa.

And when you consider that Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano were all on the pitch when Pato produced his moment of magic, it makes the whirlwind strike even better.

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In many respects, it proved to be Pato's final masterpiece for the legendary club with the Brazilian only scoring four times in the 2011/12 season before rounding off his Milan spell the following year.

Thanks for the memories, Alexandre and we can't wait to see what's still to come.

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