When Alexandre Pato arrived at Stamford Bridge, nobody was expecting miracles. The player, once regarded as Brazil's great hope, once recognised as the one of the world's most talented youngsters, had spent the last three years in the footballing wilderness. Anyone expecting him to rediscover the magnificent speed and control that saw him tear through Barcelona in 2012 was urged to temper their expectations. But 42 days and nine games on from his arrival at Chelsea, it would have been nice to see something. Anything at all. But the 26-year-old's wait for his first appearance continues.
With Loic Remy in a constant battle for form and fitness and Radamel Falcao apparently no longer an active footballer, Pato was meant to provide cover for Diego Costa and maybe provide a spark to Chelsea's woeful campaign. The Blues have started to look like something resembling their former selves, remaining unbeaten in the league under Guus Hiddink, but their Brazilian has had nothing to do with it.
Pato's spell at Chelsea is beginning to draw more and more parallels with that of Ricardo Quaresma. Both players arrived when they should have been in the prime of careers, having shone at prominent European clubs as youngsters; instead they rolled up in West London having disappeared off the radar completely by their mid-20s. Both played – or in Pato's case, will play – under Hiddink during a period when long-term planning was sacrificed for a short-term fix at the club. At least by this point in 2009, the Portugal international had made an appearance in the blue shirt.
What makes Pato's situation more peculiar is that the club were surely aware of the risks of taking the player on board; that's why he arrived on a loan deal and not on a permanent one. The club already have a player who proves that even a loan signing can be a complete waste of time in Falcao; they didn't need another one. The Brazilian has been fit enough to feature on the bench in the club's last two games, so why the hesitancy?
Worryingly for the Brazil international, he appears to have fallen down the Chelsea pecking order since his arrival, rather than climb it. Hiddink, speaking to the press ahead of the draw with Stoke City on 5 March, explained how Pato still lacked the sharpness required to find the back of the net in the Premier League before gushing over the qualities of 20-year-old Bertrand Traore, who has now struck four goals in five appearances for the club, the pick of them coming in the 1-1 draw with the Potters.
Later in that game, Hiddink turned to Remy with his side chasing a second, while Pato remained on the bench. Former Chelsea defender Jason Cundy is one of many "mystified" by the signing of the forward, claiming his hopes of earning a permanent move to Stamford Bridge are all but gone.
"I have seen these kind of signings before and they make you scratch your head sometimes," he told IBTimes UK. "How can he show anyone what he can do if he is on the bench all the time?
"He is a million miles away from justifying the £11m [according to Italian journalist Alfredo Pedulla] fee it would take to bring him to Chelsea on a permanent basis.
"£11m in centre-forward money is not a lot but you have to get these deals right and right here, right now you would have to say the chances of him signing in the summer are slim."
Pato's Premier League race isn't run yet, but if the Brazilian is to enjoy a renaissance on these shores, it had better happen soon.