Lu­cas Pa­queta

Fla­mengo tal­ent on his way to Mi­lan

World Soccer - - Headliners - Tim Vick­ery

F ew suc­cess sto­ries are en­tirely with­out fail­ure and the rise of Lu­cas Pa­queta – reach­ing idol sta­tus at Brazil’s big­gest club, Fla­mengo, and earn­ing a € 35mil­lion move to Mi­lan – is no ex­cep­tion.

The at­tack­ing mid­fielder was on standby for the World Cup in Rus­sia and made his in­ter­na­tional de­but against the USA in Septem­ber. But in April last year he was barely even on the subs’ bench for his club side, hav­ing come off a poor South Amer­i­can Un­der-20 Championship where Brazil failed to qual­ify for the World Cup at that level.

Handed the myth­i­cal num­ber 10 shirt in the tour­na­ment in Ecuador, he made lit­tle im­pres­sion and quickly lost his place in the team. Over the course of the nine games he was in and out of the side and did lit­tle of note. Need­ing only to beat an al­ready elim­i­nated Colom­bia in the fi­nal game, he made no im­pact as Brazil went out with a goal­less draw.

How­ever, an in­jec­tion of con­fi­dence can make all the dif­fer­ence in a young ca­reer. And in his case, it came from Reinaldo Rueda, the third of six coaches he has played for in less than two years.

Rueda spot­ted po­ten­tial in his mix of phys­i­cal ca­pac­ity and tech­ni­cal abil­ity, and he worked on find­ing him a place in the Fla­mengo start­ing line up. Now 21, he has im­pro­vised at cen­tre-for­ward in the ab­sence of Peru’s Paolo Guer­rero, been

out wide on both the right and left flank, and used cen­trally in a mid­field three or as part of a two.

His most re­cent boss at Fla, Dori­val Ju­nior, now ap­pears to be get­ting the best out of him by push­ing the young­ster higher up the field as an at­tack­ing mid­fielder or sup­port striker.

“He should be com­pared with Kaka,” says 1970 World Cup hero Tostao, “for his phys­i­cal type, his best po­si­tion and his char­ac­ter­is­tics. Leonardo, Mi­lan’s ex­ec­u­tive, must have thought of this.”

The sim­i­lar­i­ties help ex­plain Mi­lan’s in­ter­est, but there are dif­fer­ences. He lacks Kaka’s ca­pac­ity to surge and find ex­tra gears run­ning with the ball, though he is prob­a­bly bet­ter in the air. And, though their ages are sim­i­lar, Kaka was much fur­ther down the line with his ca­reer when join­ing Mi­lan than Lu­cas Pa­queta will be if, as re­ported, his move goes through in Jan­uary.

Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, there are times when the ra­pid­ity of his rise seems to have gone to his head and he can make silly mis­takes when try­ing to overe­lab­o­rate and loses his calm too eas­ily.

But he is un­doubt­edly tal­ented and full of con­fi­dence. It seems that the push for an early move to Europe has come from him and it will be fas­ci­nat­ing to see if he can main­tain the mo­men­tum that took him from flop at the start of 2017 to star by the mid­dle of the fol­low­ing year.

“He should be com­pared with Kaka for his phys­i­cal type, his best po­si­tion and his char­ac­ter­is­tics” Tostao

Ris­ing star...get­ting the bet­ter of Cruzeiro’s Raniel (left) and Marcelo Her­mes

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