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Alan 1:32 Thu Aug 25
Lucas Paqueta SIGNED


The Athletic

Lucas Paqueta: Lost in Milan, reborn at Lyon – and now West Ham’s statement signing

By James Horncastle

From the mountains overlooking Rio de Janeiro you can, on a clear day, see a small island across the Guanabara Bay.

It was here, in 1997, that the man set to become West Ham’s club-record signing, Lucas Tolentino Coelho da Lima, was born, a player better known by the name of his birthplace, the once-glamorous Ilha de Paqueta.

The journey he embarked on to become a professional footballer began with his grandfather Mirao ushering him and his older brother onto a ferry to cross the water between their home and Rio de Janeiro, where Lucas Paqueta attended Flamengo’s Gavea academy and Matheus trained at Ninho, another of the club’s facilities.

Paqueta has a tattoo on his forearm of a star and the letter “M” in recognition of the contribution his late grandfather made in making him who he is today; an established Brazil international upon whom clubs in Italy, France and England have lavished more than €100million (£84.8m; $100m) in transfer fees before his 25th birthday.

The “Brazil premium” is still very much a thing, although just imagine what Paqueta would go for had he been born and raised on Canvey Island in Essex and called Luke Canvey. Presumably, he’d make Jack Grealish look cheap. But we digress.

At Gavea, the boy off the boat impressed. Growing up on an island with no cars, Paqueta played uninterrupted for hours in the streets and on the beach. He had a rare touch and feel for the game.

One of his youth coaches Ze Ricardo marvelled at Paqueta’s universal skill set. He was like every midfielder rolled into one. “He could develop into a No 5, 6, 7, 8, a No 10,” Ze Ricardo told France Football. “He was very intelligent. He knew how to position himself and was fearless.”

But at 15, Paqueta was under-sized for his age. The growth spurt his peers experienced didn’t arrive and all of a sudden the star of Flamengo’s youth sector couldn’t get into the team anymore.

Paqueta didn’t take it very well. He cried and was irritable. Maybe this was it? All those nights catching the last ferry, the 21-mile roundtrip with Mirao. All for what? To go back to being a tour guide on the island, a job Paqueta did for some extra pocket money in his spare time?

His mother wouldn’t stand for it. She went down to the academy and kicked up a fuss.

Flamengo came round to her point of view and drew up a bespoke plan for Paqueta. Targeted nutrition, a bit of power training and fitness work had the desired effect and he shot up, gaining about a foot in height. It was all worth it. Paqueta ran the show as Flamengo’s under-17s won the Copinha and when the club’s first-team coach Muricy Ramalho asked the academy chiefs if they had anyone for him, one teenager stood out.

Not long after making his debut in the Rio state championship, Paqueta scored his first goal in the professional game. It was no ordinary goal either.

Tricks in tight spaces and his knack for making a mark on big occasions — Paqueta scored in the 2017 Copa do Brasil and Copa Sudamericana finals — then quickly made him the darling of Flamengo fans.

Among them was one of their former players, Leonardo, who was back at AC Milan as the club’s sporting director. After hanging up his boots, he had cut his teeth in recruitment working under former chief executive Adriano Galliani.

As the only Brazilian in Milan’s old offices on Via Turati, the signings of Thiago Silva and Alexandre Pato were widely credited to him. One of Leonardo’s first moves upon returning to the club after leaving Paris Saint-Germain and trying his hand at coaching again with Antalyaspor was to attempt to sign the next big thing out of Brazil.

A deal worth €35million was struck with Flamengo in the autumn of 2018 and Paqueta joined the following January. There were echoes of Pato’s arrival a little over a decade earlier and the nostalgia hit hard. Leonardo had accompanied Kaka to Paris to collect his Ballon d’Or in 2007 and, as he left, famously remarked he’d be back with Pato. Injuries ultimately stopped him from fulfilling his potential but the talent was obvious.

Memories of the early Pato, along with the illustrious association between Brazil and the last great Milan sides, loaded tremendous expectation on Paqueta’s shoulders. The rainbow flick he performed on his Serie A debut against Genoa only added to it. Had Leonardo only gone and found the new Kaka?

Fans at San Siro certainly hoped so. After all, this wasn’t 2003, when Kaka joined a Champions League-winning team and people wondered whether this preppy-looking kid from Sao Paulo would get a game amid competition from Manuel Rui Costa and Rivaldo. In 2019, Milan needed a saviour.

The club hadn’t been in the Champions League for five years and would have gone to the wall had Elliott Management not repossessed it from Li Yonghong. The hope projected on Paqueta was that he might almost single-handedly make Milan elite again.

Paqueta’s adaptation wasn’t easy. Whereas in the past there would have been a group of players like Dida, Serginho, Cafu, Thiago Silva, Pato and Kaka to help him settle in, by the time Paqueta arrived at Milanello there were no Brazilians left at the club. The second language at Milan these days is French, not Portuguese, and when Leonardo left six months after signing Paqueta, his protege felt isolated.

Paqueta was only there a year, but the club went through three coaches. When he joined midway through the season, Rino Gattuso had already settled on his best team and couldn’t find a spot for him. Marco Giampaolo told Paqueta to be “less Brazilian and more concrete, less showy”. By the time Stefano Pioli got the job, the direction of travel was hard to reverse and the midfield player who benefited most from his appointment turned out to be Hakan Calhanoglu. Paqueta, in Pioli’s mind, needed to be “more incisive”.

Internally, Milan were of the opinion they had overpaid Flamengo for what Paqueta was at the time. The €21million Lyon were prepared to pay for him in the late summer of 2020 was therefore considered something of a miracle and the 15 per cent sell-on Milan cleverly negotiated means they will get their money back and have a nice windfall ahead of the final week of the transfer window.

There are no regrets, even though Lyon will make close to three times what Paqueta cost them. He has flourished in Ligue 1.

“I put myself under a lot of pressure in Milan,” Paqueta reflected in L’Equipe. “Too much even. When I moved to France I told myself I didn’t have to put myself through that again. I just had to do my best.

“Sometimes there isn’t a reason for failure. My time at Milan wasn’t extraordinary by any means, I probably achieved less than expected, but it served me well and made me a better player; a different, stronger player who rediscovered the essence of what he was at Flamengo. The pressure is still there but it doesn’t come from myself anymore.”

In Lyon, Paqueta found another big club, just not one on the same scale as Milan. The environment was less demanding than San Siro and the league less tactically strait-jacketed than Serie A.

Behind the transfer was another legend of the Brazilian game, the free-kick maestro Juninho Pernambucano, who had been enticed back to Lyon as the club’s sporting director to build a team mixing the best products of Europe’s finest academy with the technical refinement of his home nation, namely Paqueta, Bruno Guimaraes and Thiago Mendes. The team that reached the semi-finals of the 2020 Champions League under Rudi Garcia, upsetting Juventus and Manchester City along the way, evolved from an aggressive, transition-based 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 which sought control through a neat possession game made possible thanks to the quintet of Brazilians, Houssem Aouar and Maxence Caqueret.

It promised a lot and a 1-0 win away to Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG before Christmas showcased the elegant press-resistant side to Paqueta’s game as he helped Lyon relieve the pressure around their penalty area and get up the pitch. Paqueta offered glimpses of a complete midfielder, whose ability to disrupt opponents as they progressed towards Lyon’s goal married the aesthetic with the aggressive.

On the ball, as his smarterscout profile below shows, he often kept his passing short and sharp, with neat interchange (link-up play volume 86 out of 99) rather than longer, searching balls upfield (progressive passing 27 out of 99). Those actions seemingly kept possession at an above-average rate compared with other central attacking midfielders (ball retention ability 59 out of 99).

Off the ball, Paqueta’s ability to disrupt opponents with his high volume of defensive actions such as tackles and blocks (disrupting opposition moves 98 out of 99) was also highly effective in preventing opponents from progressing towards Lyon’s goal (defending impact 73 out of 99).



Halfway through his first campaign in Ligue 1, L’Equipe named him in their team of the season so far. Once the polemic subsided about Tite prematurely handing Lucas Paqueta the Brazil No 10 shirt for a friendly against Argentina in 2019 — a decision Rivaldo took as a lack of respect for Rivelino, Zico and Ronaldinho — he established himself as a regular. His versatility means he will probably start at the World Cup.

“He has the talent to be one of the top players,” Emerson Palmieri told The Athletic earlier this summer. The Euro 2020 winner spent last season on loan at Lyon and will be reunited with Paqueta after joining West Ham from Chelsea. “He’s still young and I believe we have to have patience with him because sometimes youngsters have ups and downs.”

The oscillating performances Palmieri touches upon refers to the Lyonnais perception of Paqueta as an absolute joy to watch on his day. But he lacks consistency. Garcia felt he needed to show more killer instinct in his passing rather than playing simple, short and sideways.

The team also went backwards in Paqueta’s time, declining from Champions League semi-finalists to no Champions League football at all in back-to-back years. Last season under Peter Bosz was the worst the club has experienced in a quarter of a century. Either the team underperformed or wasn’t as good as people thought. Guimaraes was sold to Newcastle in January to offset some of the lost earnings from missing out on the Champions League and Lyon have gone back to players they can rely on like Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso. More substance, less style.

Paqueta was ready for a new challenge but the lacklustre showings he put in over the second half of the last campaign also made Lyon open to moving on. Romain Faivre can replace him between the lines and Jeff Reine Adelaide’s return from injury covers Lyon in midfield.

A fee of up to €60million from West Ham is frankly too good to turn down and would make Paqueta the club’s most lucrative sale after Tanguy Ndombele. West Ham fans will be hoping they get more bang for their buck than Tottenham did for their record signing who returned to Lyon on loan last season and is now at Napoli.

“His quality is there for all to see,” Palmieri said of Paqueta. “He’s a dedicated guy, someone who is obsessed with winning games and competing for titles. He has everything he needs to develop further. I think he has a brilliant future ahead of him.”

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

Rossal 10:01 Fri Jan 20
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
In Moyes' podcast he mentions signing big names to get kids excited to be the next generation of fans and to sell shirts etc

Feels like he was signed for that.....

I mean..... has he had a shot or a decent chance from open play yet??

Russ of the BML 2:12 Thu Jan 19
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Mr Anon 10:44 Thu Jan 19

That's a stupid comment. You base it on what he's done for West Ham not what he's done for Brazil.

And even so, I watched him very closely in the WC and in both those games he was quiet and got pulled at half time. Brazil then looked better once he'd gone off.

So you say if he's good enough for Brazil but then that's not even true.

Mr Anon 10:44 Thu Jan 19
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
BBondsBootlaces 10:29 Wed Jan 18
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Good enough for the 5 time world cup winners first team, not good enough for West Ham. O-K..

About as relevant as saying well if West Ham are good enough for Moore And Hurst it should be good enough for Salah

Ant L 10:14 Thu Jan 19
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
As much as I want Pacqueta to succeed at West Ham, I can't help but feel this signing was a Sullivan ego-boost and chance to flex.

He can fit in the team but it isn't helped when apparent deadwood HOTY Soucek sits next to him in the middle.

Mace66 8:33 Thu Jan 19
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED


BBondsBootlaces 10:29 Wed Jan 18
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Good enough for the 5 time world cup winners first team, not good enough for West Ham. O-K....


And what about Richardson the poor cunt, all that Brazilian World Cup history and he’s 2nd choice behind Harry Kane, he should be GUARANTEED 1st choice coming from the same country as Pele, Roberto Carlos etc

RM10 12:09 Thu Jan 19
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
I haven’t, I want to but he just hasn’t delivered

Pedro 11:44 Wed Jan 18
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
I enjoy watching him play.

Won’t see such players in the championship.

zebthecat 11:02 Wed Jan 18
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
zico 10:35 Wed Jan 18

Pagey 10:51 Wed Jan 18
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
BBondsBootlaces 10:29 Wed Jan 18
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Good enough for the 5 time world cup winners first team, not good enough for West Ham. O-K...

………….

I didn’t realise he played for Brazil in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 & 2002. To be fair, he does look good for a man in his 80’s.

zico 10:35 Wed Jan 18
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Deserves a chance under another manager., After all Mascherano didn't get in ahead of Hayden Mullins and look what he went on to achieve!

RM10 10:31 Wed Jan 18
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
If you struggle with 10 yard passes……

BBondsBootlaces 10:29 Wed Jan 18
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Good enough for the 5 time world cup winners first team, not good enough for West Ham. O-K....

southbankbornnbred 11:24 Mon Jan 16
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Having watched him at West Ham and in the World Cup for Brazil, I still have absolutely no idea whether this guy is a class act or massively over-rated.

It's hard to tell because of Moyes' dinosaur tactics, and Brazil's post-2002 ability to flatter to deceive.

At times he looks excellent, and then on other occasions he looks like a Brazilian David Dunn: all flicks and tricks and no effectiveness.

Maybe he's somewhere in between? One thing is for sure, he needs to play under a different manager to Moyes - who has little idea how to make use of him. I won't judge the poor fecker until he plays under a manager who knows it is the 21st Century.

Russ of the BML 11:21 Mon Jan 16
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED

cholo 11:19 Mon Jan 16

That's because Antonio has been dog-shit since December 2021 and Bowen has been dog-shit since September 2022.

Pagey 11:21 Mon Jan 16
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
There are too many excuses being made for this bloke at the moment. Aside from the odd moment, I haven’t seen anything that makes him worth £50m. Not even close. Plus he does play for a very average Brazilian team.

Someone like James Ward-Prowse (who I think we went after to be fair) would have been a much better signing as a proven Premier League player.

Maybe a different manager would get the best out of him, but Paqueta should be able to get the basics right by himself. It doesn’t feel like we spent £180m in the summer. More like £18m. That’s worrying.

cholo 11:19 Mon Jan 16
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
There was a moment v wolves that summed up the entire situation for me. During a wolves attack, Paqueta strode out of our penalty area with the ball ready to spring a counter attack, he looked up, expecting both Antonio and Bowen to be stretching the wolves defence in front of him in anticipation of a through ball or a pass to feet.

Instead he looked up and saw absolutely fuck all options, not a single runner or even a player attempting to make some space to take the pressure off, no movement just wolves in front of him. Not wanting to be dispossessed
he kicked the ball towards the halfway line and of course the opposition accepted it and resumed their attack.

I thought we were meant to be a counter attacking team, it's fundamental to how we are supposed to play, turns out we are just a non attacking team.

Get a manager in with a bit of positivity and I'm certain the likes of Paqueta and Scammaca will improve, in fact it will give the entire squad a lift and probably a huge sigh of relief.

Russ of the BML 11:05 Mon Jan 16
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
I was told this bloke was quality. I'm still waiting. And the people that told me he was quality have gone quiet. I wonder why. But, here's the thing, Is it that he is just not very good and we've been proper turned over with his transfer or is it Moyes?

I mean, the only thing that Paqueta has in his defence is that he is playing for a negative incompetent moron.

Some people will say, no matter how bad your manager is, you put a shift in and perform. But is not always as easy as that. I remember from my playing days, that if you played with confusion over what you and the team should be doing then you simply cannot perform. That comes from the manager.

So, right now, I'm still waiting for the real Paqueta to stand up.... But I understand that while Moyes is still manager, that may never happen.

OneAll 3:53 Mon Jan 16
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
name one player who has shone this season , him and scammy are the only ones i enjoy watching atm atleast they show flashes of brilliance unlike the rest , poor criticism , judge when new manager comes in

Yarmouth 2:00 Mon Jan 16
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
I've really tried to give him the benefit of the doubt but have come to the conclusion that he's simply not good enough nor quick enough for the prem.

Shame, but there it is.

Scamacca's the same. A flash here and there along with a goal or two but otherwise ineffective.

Ironically though - both made worse by Moyes.

wansteadman 12:23 Mon Jan 16
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
If we'd paid £10m for him he'd be on the bench

master 6:48 Sun Jan 15
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
If you think the passing is bad, look at the total lack of movement off the ball / once a pass is made.

That's the kind of thing you're meant to catch into players. Moyes seems to coach it out of them.

Bellend.

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