Flamengo talent on his way to Milan
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