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Champions League Opponent Watch: AC Milan’s Ronaldo back with a bang as Pato’s debut delights

Arsenal’s opponents in the last sixteen of the UEFA Champions League, AC Milan, saw their three Brazilian magicians take centre stage at the San Siro as Napoli were beaten 5-2 on Sunday.

A fluffy-haired - and still a bit tubby – Ronaldo weighed in with a couple of goals, with Dutchman Clarence Seedorf, Kaka and teenage Samba star Alexandre Pato completing the rout.

After the game, AC Milan supremo Silvio Berluconi shed some light on the World and European champions’ January transfer window plans and boldly suggested even Barcelona superstar Ronaldinho would not be guaranteed a place in the Rossineri’s line-up, were he to move to Italy. Berlusconi is quoted as saying on Milan’s official website:

“Ronaldo and Pato have come to us, this is our transfer campaign and perhaps there will be a new experienced defender.

“Surely considering the age of our defensive department some reinforcements will be made. But we are also looking for a young defender. Ronaldinho? He's a player who could be useful to any team, but in this Milan side he's surely not indispensable."

Obviously ecstatic after his side’s win, Berlusconi went on to lavish praise on his players and singled out 18-year-old Pato, giving him full marks for his debut test.

“We have been waiting for Pato a long time, a few bureaucratic problems prevented us from letting him play before. We also waited for Ronaldo to get back to his best and it's extraordinary that everything came together this evening. Fortunately we were able to see Kaká playing behind these two great talents.”

“Pato? For tonight's match I would give him a 10. He's an extraordinary footballer and he still has a lot of surprising tricks up his sleeve. His accelerations in 10, 20, 30 meters are devastating. I heard the comment of Napoli coach Edy Reja and I agree. If you allow Pato to play one against one he becomes uncatchable.”

Milan head coach Carlo Ancelotti joined the Pato love-in, saying:

“We have started a crucial month in the best possible way. I expected Milan to do well, just like I expected Milan to win and Pato's fine debut.

“A wonderful evening was crowned by Pato's answer to all the expectation surrounding him. This player is very fast, has great technique and he's a very cold-blooded, mature lad. He will still grow, he has to find the chemistry with his team mates and he has to realise what's going on around him."

"Pato's debut is on the same level as Kaká's at Ancona. The sensations are the same, there is an important technical value to the player. I think the world of this kid, I'm happy that everyone in the stadium applauded him and encouraged him."

Ancelotti may have expected Pato’s performance but he was pleasantly surprised by the impact of another of his Brazilian forwards.

“I did not expect Ronaldo to do this well,” he said. “Ronie did something extraordinary, he's been training for just 10 days. He showed great ability despite not being at his best.

Ominous words for all Arsenal fans, I’m sure you’ll agree but they don’t tell the whole story of Milan’s season.

The Rossineri may have added the European Super Cup and World Club championship trophies to their sprawling trophy cabinet already this term, but they lie 12th in Serie A - an embarrassing 25 points behind leaders Inter Milan.

Have YOU seen AC Milan play recently? Did you see Sunday’s win over Napoli? How good is Pato? What can we expect when Arsenal host Milan on February 20 and travel to Italy on March 4? Tell us what you think using the comments below…

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Posted by Mo Khan on January 16, 2008 11:30 AM in Champions League
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