Internacional coach warns off prodigy Pato Alexandre

December 12, 2006

TOKYO, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Internacional coach Abel Braga on Tuesday warned media and prospective suitors alike to keep their hands off prodigious teenager Pato Alexandre.

The South American champions are set to unleash the 17-year-old, nicknamed Alex the Duck, when the Brazilian side face Egypt's Al Ahli in the Club World Cup on Wednesday.

Alexandre made an extraordinary debut for Inter last month, scoring with his first touch after 94 seconds and setting up two more goals in a 4-1 win at Palmeiras.

'It is not good for the player to be put under such pressure,' Braga told reporters on the eve of Inter's semi-final against African champions Ahli.

'We don't want all that responsibility placed on such young shoulders.'

Alexandre has yet to play another professional game since ripping apart Palmeiras but tongues have already began wagging about another great Brazilian discovery.

Arsenal have already been linked with a possible move but Braga insisted he would keep the player wrapped in cotton wool for the time being.

Inter, who lost several key players after winning the Libertadores Cup in August, have already hiked up the penalty clause for interested clubs from $4 million to $20 million.

'He has enormous ability and potential,' admitted Braga. 'Every time he is asked to do something he always answers in a positive way.

'He is an important part of the team but it's important to remember he is just 17.'

Club captain Fernandao also warned that Alexandre was not Inter's saviour.

'Everyone's saying he's going to save the team,' shrugged Fernandao. 'Yes he has the ability to do that in the future but it's not fair to lumber him with that pressure now.'

Inter, who also announced they had renewed Braga's contract for a year, are scheduled to meet European champions Barcelona in Sunday's Club World Cup final.

The Catalans face Mexico's America in Thursday's second semi-final. Barcelona and Internacional both received first-round byes.