Corinthians have reiterated that Alexandre Pato would have a future with the club in the event that Chelsea decline to sign him on a full-time contract this summer. The Brazilian striker ended months of speculation over a potential switch to the Premier League in January, arriving at Stamford Bridge on a loan agreement until the end of the season.
Such a move appeared to be struck on a try before you buy basis, with Chelsea believed to retain the option to sign him permanently for a fee in the region of £12m ($17.2m). The chances of that deal being completed now seem extremely remote, however, with Pato's shortage of first-team football meaning that he was simply not fit enough to contribute for several weeks.
He finally made his Premier League debut 64 days after signing on 2 April, replacing the injured Loic Remy after just 23 minutes of a comprehensive victory at Aston Villa. He marked his maiden appearance with a goal from the penalty spot and started the following match against Swansea before being left as an unused substitute for last weekend's 3-0 home defeat by Manchester City.
That lack of impact, combined with the imminent arrival of a new manager in Antonio Conte leaves Pato's future open to considerable doubt and Corinthians president Roberto de Andrade has now confirmed that a return to his native Brazil is not out of the question.
"He still has a contract with us which has to be honoured," he was quoted as saying by The Sun. "So nothing has changed in the situation regarding Pato. So, If Chelsea don't want him any more and don't pay for his transfer, then he will move back to Corinthians. And once back with us he will be used for us in our team."
Conte has yet to publicly outline his plans for Chelsea, where he will take the reins on a three-year deal following the conclusion of Italy's European Championship campaign in France. The 46-year-old, who guided Juventus to three consecutive Serie A titles before leaving Turin in 2014, is said to be eager to retain the services of controversial forward Diego Costa in addition to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and under-performing Real Madrid target Eden Hazard.
A whole host of new players have inevitably been linked with the club since confirmation of their next managerial appointment, most notably Roma and Belgium midfielder Radja Nainggolan.