Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/1/2016 (1940 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Nearly a decade has passed since Alexandre Pato, just 17 years old, exquisitely controlled an overhead ball, laid it off to a teammate and sprinted into space before accepting the return, which he calmly stroked into the back of the net.
It was the Internacional forward's first minute of top-flight football, and before the final whistle he'd add a pair of assists in the Porto Alegre side's 4-1 win over Palmeiras.
A month later, in a FIFA Club World Cup semifinal in Tokyo, he'd cement his status as one of the game's premier prospects by scoring against an excellent Al-Ahly side that included the likes of Wael Gomaa, Emad Moteab and legendary Egyptian attacker Mohamed Aboutrika -- one of the greatest footballers to never ply his trade in Europe.
The following Sunday he was a world champion, having played more than an hour against runners-up Barcelona.
It's important to remember how highly regarded Pato was, how he tantalized all who saw him back in 2006, when it seemed the world lay at his feet. Here was one of the new, hybrid forwards being produced in South America -- the sort of player who could dribble, head a ball, finish, and do it all from anywhere across the final third.
There was a time, as incredible as it seems, when Pato and the Argentine Sergio Aguero were thought to be neck and neck in their development.
It's important to remember, because without the context it's difficult to imagine why a Chelsea or Manchester United would take a gamble on him in 2016, with those early sparks having long ago faded into shadow.
There must be something tantalizing, still, in the now-26-year-old. There must be a reason why the erstwhile Brazil international is being linked to a handful of Premier League clubs more than three years after ending a first European stint with AC Milan and returning to Brazil.
There are, in fact, several.
Pato, for whom Corinthians paid Ç¨15 million in 2013, and who currently earns Ç¨45,000 per week, is widely regarded as the most disastrous signing in the club's history. While the Timao medics managed to end his string of muscle and ligament injuries, of which he had suffered at least 10 in Italy (Brazilian club therapists are considered the best in the world), he represented them with little to no interest on the pitch.
He became notoriously lazy, to the point the club's fans turned on him and teammates had to be restrained from picking a fight with Corinthians' highest earner.
A missed penalty -- a Panenka fail, to make it worse -- in the Copa do Brazil was the final straw. He was loaned to local rivals Sao Paulo in February 2014.
The thing is, Pato turned himself around at the Morumbi.
His nine goals in his first season with the club paced the side, as did his 10 in the recently completed 2015 campaign. And the 26 tallies he notched in all competitions represented his best output of a career that may finally be back on track.
So there are certainly football factors in the interest out of England, where that Ç¨45,000 per week is not only reasonable, but a bargain.
Then there is the simple matter of Corinthians wanting nothing to do with him from this point forward. His loan spell is up, and his contract expires in December. Head coach Tite has vowed that Pato, currently training alone in Sao Paulo while the reigning champions are in the United States, will be offloaded in a matter of days.
The club has gone so far as to retain the services of the shady Kia Joorabchian to find a buyer for Pato -- such is the desperation to get him off their books.
A former investor in the club, Joorabchian had a falling-out with Corinthians in 2007 after a business model that ensured he, himself, would benefit from the sale of the club's top talent left Timao in a state of disarray. Notorious for his advocacy of third-party ownership in players, the 44-year-old is one of the sport's most high-profile scoundrels.
That said, he may just be the salesman to get the Pato deal done, although the rumours of interest may also be little more than his creation --a sort of phony demand.
Pato, meanwhile, is in limbo, which is a shame.
Whether at Corinthians or Chelsea or Manchester United or Chinese outfit Tianjin Songjiang, which has already bid for his services, he needs to be playing. Maybe now more than ever. Now, when his performances are finally delivering on the promises his teenage self once whispered.
Yes, his history has been checkered, and yes, the process by which Corinthians are looking to dump him is unsavoury.
But here's hoping there's still something of that exuberant, 17-year-old boy the football world has yet to see. Here's hoping that memorable breakthrough wasn't as good as it gets.