Lucas Paqueta made his debut for Lyon in a 3-2 win away at Strasbourg on the 18th of October 2020, playing alongside compatriot Thiago Mendes and Housseam Aouar in central midfield. At €20 million, he was the club’s marquee signing of the preceding transfer window, making the move across the Alps from Milan just a few days before the deadline for new signings.
Paqueta was brought in to address a lack of creativity in the Lyon midfield, which had seen them struggle to find the net in the first few games of the new season. He was deployed on the right of a midfield three in his first appearance for his new club, and contributed as much defensively as he did going forward, but is primarily known as an attacking midfielder and may ultimately be deployed in a more advanced role.
He is looking to reignite a career that began so promisingly at Flamengo in his native Brazil before stuttering somewhat after his €35 million move to AC Milan in January 2019. He never really established himself as a mainstay of the Milan team during his twenty months at the club and rarely completed the ninety minutes, either being introduced from the bench, or substituted when he was in the starting line-up.
He left Milan having accumulated a tally of forty-four appearances in all competitions, twenty-nine of them as a starter and fifteen from the bench, with his only goal for the Rossoneri coming against Cagliari in just his forth appearance for the club back in February 2019.
Paqueta may find himself more at home in Lyon, where he is now one of five Brazilians on the current playing staff, which includes his former club mate from Flamengo, Jean Lucas. The two of them have a good understanding on the pitch and Lyon will hope that they can bring out the best in one another if they are deployed together. Indeed, Lyon now have the intriguing potential to field an all-Brazilian four-man midfield.
Paqueta forged his reputation at Flamengo, in his native Rio de Janeiro, having joined the club as a ten year old boy. He made a couple of brief substitute appearances in minor competitions as an eighteen year old in March 2016 but had to wait a further year before finally integrating the first team squad for good at the start of 2017, which was to be his breakthrough year.
He began 2017 as a key part of Brazil’s team at the South American Under 20 championships, and then made six appearances (five off the bench) in the season opening Carioca Championship and scored his first two senior goals as Flamengo went on to win the competition, although he didn’t feature in the final. He did feature and indeed score in the final of the Copa do Brazil, which Flamengo lost on penalties to Cruzeiro after the tie finished 1-1 on aggregate.
Paqueta became a regular in the Serie A team in the second half of the season as Flamengo finished sixth and really made a name for himself in Flamengo’s run to the Copa Sudamericana final. He made nine appearances in that competition, starting both legs of the final against Independiente and scored two goals, including one in the second leg of the final, which they lost 3-2 on aggregate.
In 2018 Paqueta was an established regular at Flamengo and scored ten goals in Serie A as the club finished second in the table. He was voted into the Serie A Team of the Season at the end of the campaign and made his Brazil debut in a friendly against the USA, coming on as a substitute for Philippe Coutinho. By now he was hot property and attracting a lot of attention in Europe, so Milan made their move.
Despite his form dipping somewhat in Italy, Paqueta remained a part of the seleção and scored his first goals for his country in 2019 in friendlies against Panama and South Korea. He also made the Copa America squad and picked up a winners medal, although his only appearance in the tournament came as a substitute in the quarter-final penalty-shootout win over Paraguay.
He hasn’t featured in a Brazil squad yet in 2020 but will be hoping that regular game time in Lyon will help him rediscover his best form and get back in the national team picture. He is also eligible to go to the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics as part of Brazil’s Under 23 squad.