WHO Poll
Q: 2022/23 Moyes In or Moyes Out
Moyes In
Moyes Out

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)

ATHammer 6:43 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Plays with a smile; has sublime skills; doesn't shirk the physical aspects of the game; and it takes four grown men to stop him getting at the AZ scum. What is there not to like about this man?

Manuel 5:50 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Oops, that was meant for the Declan thread.

Manuel 5:48 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Noticed yesterday that his technique is now improving too, getting himself out of tight spots with clever footwork. He really has become a great player and will get even better because he pushes himself. Rarely seen a player who covers so much of the turf.

We won't get 120 for him, more likely around 80/85 but lets hope he stays.

El Scorchio 4:53 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
IF he goes, (and I don;t believe he will for a season or two yet) then at least it should be for a hell of a lot more than we paid. The guy has proven he can mix it with the best of them in the PL. Does need more goals and assists to his game though given the position he plays, but he plays with a flair you really don;t see very much, and it's effective too. His tricks often actually beat players rather than just looking nice and doing little.

What REALLY impresses me is how he doesn't shy away from the physical side of the game and has a tremendous work ethic- getting back quickly when possession breaks down and helping recover the ball and yesterday he made a hell of a lot of long lung busting runs late in the game like we're used to seeing from Bowen.

Becoming a really formidable player. Goes to show that players do need time sometimes and they will come good. I really admire that he hasn't hidden at all when things were not going his way or coming off for him. He always wanted the ball and he never seemed to lose faith in his ability.

ludo21 4:05 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
I know that Rice is going to go but it is a bit rich everyone saying that he needs to move to play with better players... wherever Rice goes he isn't going to play alongside many better than Paqueta.

Win ECL and have EL next season and it would be a real statement to hang onto both of these and add further quality to the squad.

Fail to do that and it is only a matter of time until Lucas follows Rice out of the door...

Percy Dalton 2:21 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Biggest problem we'll have is hanging on to him.
Expect the usual mobs will come sniffing in the Summer

OneAll 2:06 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
not once have i doubted him , how can you expect a new player to shine when the rest of the team was playing so bad , i knew we had a proper player on our hands also everyone is saying he was shit when he first came , no he wasnt lol anyone with a brain could see he was 2 steps ahead of everyone else in terms of passing and movement , the team had to find some form so the blind fans could actually see this

Russ of the BML 12:01 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Fifth Column 11:51 Mon May 22

Exactly - We've all wondered this season is he as good as the hype. He's proven clearly in last month that he is. And probably even better than many of us could've hoped.

He wasn't helped by Moyes mis-management of him and I think playing him in that 10 roll confused him and alot of the fans. He clearly isn't a 10. But a skilful and technical 8. Sitting deeper and linking defence to midfield to attack.

I suppose my comments were a bit harsh. For some reason I'm trying to defend the fans that criticised him. Not sure why, just think fans have a right to criticise and I don't like all this "I told you so business". Hindsight is a wonderful thing and all that.

I'm just glad that he's come good and I think he has the potential to become a club legend if he carries on this form.

Russ of the BML 11:55 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Takashi Miike 11:27 Mon May 22

Yes, that's a fair point. I suppose there's always an 'extreme' minority that shout loudest.

Although I still think the majority, including me, whilst left a bit frustrated with him at times obviously knew the player he could be.

Russ of the BML 11:53 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Northern Sold 11:23 Mon May 22

Nothing wrong with patience. I didn't say there wasn't.

I've always seen there's a player in there fighting to get out. My criticism of him earlier in the season was that, despite a few decent passes, flicks and roll overs here and there, his actual productivity was very low i.e. goals, assists, key passes.

And so the question was, have we paid almost £50m for a circus performer? Having said that, again, I emphasise, I could see a player there. Hence why I've always said "Can the Paqueta please stand up".

Others never had that patience. And, whilst I don't agree with vilifying a player whilst settling, I do agree supporters have a right to question a player, especially one that cost that much.

It's all well and good now people slagging others off who criticised him but none of us have a crystal ball and, as i said, at times this season Paqueta has looked a joke who made us all scratch our heads.

Let's just all be thankful that the real Paqueta has now stood up.

Fifth Column 11:51 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
"At times this season Paqueta has looked like a clown. We've all at some point wondered what the fuck we had bought."


My thoughts this season were that he was played wrong by Moyes, that his final pass has often not been good enough and he gives it away a little too often. So I thought "maybe he's not quite as good as I thought" but anyone who thought he was a "clown" or "wondered what the fuck we had bought" wasn't watching matches,

Now he's improving on the pass/final ball thing and Moyes has started playing to his strengths a little more so looking good.

fraser 11:46 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Found these two gems
Come On You Irons wrote...

Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
I'm glad a few others are awake to how much of a fraud this clown is.

Cowering out of tackles, dispossessed multiple times during matches, giving the ball away numerous times trying Hollywood balls etc.

The fella is a samba dancing, fancy pants, bottle job joke, and it is embarrassing the club wasted £50 million on him.

Hopefully the news of Paqueta being out for weeks is true. Improves us.

And I doubt he's properly injured. Probably just doesn't have the minerals to take part in a relegation battle. The samba dancing, one goal from open play in over half a season, bottle job wanker.

BRANDED 11:28 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
I think so long as the final ball is right he looks fucking incredible. Long may that last.

Takashi Miike 11:27 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
no Russ, there's questioning a signing and then there's the level of bollocks that this bloke got and fairly recently too. you defend COYI all you fucking want, but I'll continue to highlight bullshit when I see it

fraser 11:24 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
New player takes longer to settle in with a retarded manager shock.

I never doubted him, you could see how good he was, plus we had the added benefit of COYI calling it that he was a dud so he had to be good :-)

Northern Sold 11:23 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Whats a matter with a bit of patience Russ?? Fuck me even the Goons never got on Terry Henry's back after his tepid first season....

Northern Sold 11:21 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
New player takes a few months to settle in shock....

Russ of the BML 11:18 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Let's be honest with ourselves Miike. At times this season Paqueta has looked like a clown. We've all at some point wondered what the fuck we had bought.

Takashi Miike 11:08 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Takashi Miike 11:10 Mon Sep 19
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
"Iwobi showed him up with how to play the 10 role."

that's because iwobi had about four five options (maupay, gtay, gana, gordon) in space every time he got on the ball. are you actually watching what our other players are doing, or not doing? simple things like running, get in good positions, working hard?

Takashi Miike 11:11 Mon Sep 19
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
*four or five options*

Come On You Irons 11:16 Mon Sep 19
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Takashi Miike, stop embarrassing yourself. It is clear that Paqueta had a stinker yesterday and should have been hooked at half time, not reactively around 60 minutes after we inevitably went a goal down.

AC Milan fans thought he was a joke player. Just because he gets into a wesk Brazil midfield doesn't mean he is a footballing God. He was alao in the Lyon midfield when we turned them over 0-3 last season, for a bit of balance.

The fact we spunked £50 million on this clown is an embrassment. I never wanted the fancy dan in the first place. Onana would have been a much better signing but we typically fucked up that signing


paulon 10:59 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
rip come on you irons

u r wiv da angelz now x

Russ of the BML 10:46 Mon May 22
Re: Lucas Paqueta SIGNED
Well, I asked for a long time if the real Lucas Paqueta would stand up and I think we can safely say he now has and some.

Was outstanding yesterday and starting to look like the complete player. Tracking back and diving into a tackle one end and then mesmerising everyone with roll overs and flicks the other end.

With some refinement he could be an absolute legend for us.

Page 1 - Next

Copyright 2006 WHO.NET | Powered by: