WHO Poll

Alan 1:32 Thu Aug 25
Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
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)

OneAll 6:32 Thu Oct 12
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
paqueta can do what he wants , all the best Brazilians are the same

Hammer and Pickle 9:07 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
No, never seen Paqueta “rolling around on the floor” or weakening us defensively.

Plenty of evidence of him trying to win the ball back having lost it though - does help if you watch us play, mind you

Fauxstralian 9:01 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Paqueta does go to ground easily but he has created a rod for his own back as he SHOULD have had a few free kicks on Sunday but refs have marked his card.
Bit strange as the likes of Kane and Salah seem to drop to the ground unaided and still get soft free kicks.
Got worse when he shrugged off Tonali and stayed on his feet and the clown Bankes penalised him before their first goal.

Come On You Irons 8:51 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
"One way is cheating, the other's just being a bit petulant."

Nice claret and blue specs there. A dive is a dive, whatever the context.

Paqueta's diving is arguably worse as he weakens us defensively by choosing to roll about on the floor when he is dispossessed rather than bust a gut to win the ball back.

Nagel 4:04 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
I think Manuel's right. Paqueta's "dives" are quite a bit different to the way Grealish did it at Villa as Grealish always seemed to do it tactically, to win free kicks in attacking areas, whereas Paqueta does it as if he's embarrassed or angry that someone had the audacity to take the ball off him. One way is cheating, the other's just being a bit petulant.

Manuel 11:03 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Yep, may as well, and agree we have never done it much. Like I say I wouldn't encourage it, or want us to do it all the time, but a couple of times in a game is just pretty much standard now, certainly bigger issues to worry about for me. Some twerp got sent off recently for diving, got a yellow for it shortly after his first yellow, but can't remember who it was at the mo.

fraser 10:57 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
I dislike it as well, but if you can't beat them join them. Why should the opposition gain an advantage that we can't.. We're way behind most still.

Manuel 10:53 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
fraser - I think you either accept it's part of the game now or you get outraged about it, I choose the former, but yea each his own I suppose. Like I say it's hardly that bad anyway. What i don't like is dangerous fouls, leg breakers etc. I would never label diving as ''cheating'' way too over dramatic for me.

COYI - I think he does it sometimes because he's embarrassed he lost the ball, so trying to get a foul like he did when he lost possession on Sunday near half way and they nearly went on to score...more so than diving when in possession, or close to the ball, to gain an advantage. I doubt it bothers Moyes, so can't see him having a word.

fraser 10:51 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Antonio maybe does it, I can't work out if he's diving or incapable of standing on his own two feet.. Bowen also does it

Come On You Irons 10:43 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
True, diving is rife in the game and the authorities need to do more to stop it but they are weak, corrupt and ineffective.

I just can't stand blatant cheating in all its forms and don't like to see players that represent the club we support doing it so frequently and so blatantly.

Paqueta is the only one of our players to outrageously dive multiple times per match week in, week out. That's why I have called him out on it as it stands out like a sore thumb and is frankly embarrassing.

fraser 10:42 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Manuel - Different things bother different people no?

Something may bother you that someone else finds ridiculous, why does it bother you what bothers others for example :-)

Manuel 10:36 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED

''This type of blatant cheating is not what West Ham should be about and Moyes needs to have word with him about it''

Here we go again with the we're better than everyone else and have better morals, etc, what a load of old bollocks. I accepted that diving was part of today's game a long time ago and it doesn't bother me, it's down to the ref to punish it. It doesn't happen that often anyway in the PL and Paqueta is South American, so it's normal.

When dogooders on here were slating Grealish for doing it as if he had murdered a child I said at the time it don't really bother me. Has he cut it out a little now, can't say I know either way?

Don't get me wrong I wouldn't encourage it, but not sure why some get all offended over it, worry yourself about something else, ffs.

Come On You Irons 10:25 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
The constant diving does annoy me. I accept this guy is vastly improved on his output for the first three quarters of last season, contributed to our Europa Conference League success at the back end of last season, and is undoubtedly a highly skillful player, but the diving is an embarrassment to be frank.

Every time he gets fairly challenged and loses possession he takes a blatant dive. It's beyond embarrassing and we would all be calling it out if he were a high profile opposition player.

This type of blatant cheating is not what West Ham should be about and Moyes needs to have word with him about it.

Sir Alf 8:48 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Best chance of keeping him is a bit of a trade off as it would mean this betting inquiry dragging on or even him getting collared in some way? You would hope it’s only a minor breach etc. and a ban for a few games but that’s the only way he stays imo. Bitter sweet as they say :-)

I actually think he will be cleared of any wrongdoings so it will need Steidten to repeat what has happened with Rice and making us stronger as a squad overall when reinvesting in replacements. I mean, as good as Paqueta is, if you get 2 really good younger lads in for the money he’s sold for it’s likely their collective contribution over a season will be even better? Of course, we have also seen many times how badly investing it can work out too. Steidten is key to the whole progression of the club now

nychammer 3:15 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
we'll do really well to keep him past this season

Capitol Man 2:58 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
We all want entertainment and he certainly brings that.

First goal he didn’t really give the ball away as much as give away a foul that really wasn’t one.

solidbond 2:47 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Yer they did come to mind ,Cresswell played his best football with Payet in front of him .

VirginiaHam 1:59 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED

Cresswell and Payet were quite good.

Wils 12:28 Tue Oct 10
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Obviously our most skilful player. But it's not just his diving, he loses possession a lot. Often leading to goals. If I remember rightly one of the Newcastle goals came from him losing possession. He's definitely creating more goals than he causes us to concede, but it is a frustrating side to his play.

solidbond 10:28 Mon Oct 9
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Can’t remember the last time we had two players who link up as well as Emerson & Paqueta do down the left .

OneAll 9:46 Mon Oct 9
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Who gives a fuck if he takes the odd dive , he also gets stuck the fuck in and is easily our best player by a mile like I said from the start while half of you were calling him shit , long may it continue

Page 1 - Next

Copyright 2006 WHO.NET | Powered by: