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Brazil – Argentina: Lucas Paquetá, from Milan’s basement to Maracanã | America’s Soccer Cup 2021

The Brazilian Lucas Paquetá celebrates a goal against Peru, in the semifinals of the Copa América.
The Brazilian Lucas Paquetá celebrates a goal against Peru, in the semifinals of the Copa América.SERGIO MORAES / Reuters

The “remakes of …” have hurt promising youngsters throughout history. The new Messi, the new Pelé, the new Maradona. The list is neither created nor destroyed, it is lengthened. That also happened to Lucas Tolentino, Paquetá. On his feet was put the label of the Kaka of the new generation. AC Milan disposed of 35 million euros for the 21-year-old. It was the bet for the team to get out of the swamp. And yet there was a miscalculation. The Brazilian footballer could not fit into the system of the energetic Gennaro Gattuso or Giampaolo. Italy was not his thing.

Paquetá, a nickname that the footballer earned for the name of his neighborhood, had surprised in Brazil. He was the star boy of Flamengo. Before reaching the first team, he kept the Brazilian club’s board worried. At 16 years old, Paquetá was five feet tall and very thin. For four months he worked with the physiology department to gain muscle and height, according to the newspaper Newspaper. The footballer established himself as an attacking midfielder with qualities to set up the game and now, at 23 years old, he has already reached 1.80 in height.

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Milan, who wanted to return to the Champions League positions, prepared to pay a millionaire transfer for Paquetá. The minutes they gave him were scarce. Gattuso and Giampaolo went through the bench, but neither made him feel confident. Nor did they reach the top positions. “I pushed myself a lot, too much, even,” the Brazilian acknowledged to The team. 34 games later, with few joys in the season and a half, Paquetá received the help of a historic Brazilian. Juninho Pernambucano, Olympique de Lyon legend, called him to seek his transfer. “I want to help the midfield and go on the attack, giving my best for Lyon,” he said in his presentation in 2020. In his first season he played 34 games, where he did start under the command of Rudi García. “He is technical, very versatile and knows how to use his physique well. He also has a good head, ”Juninho said about the midfielder.

Lucas Paquetá, during a match with Lyon, on April 3, 2021.
Lucas Paquetá, during a match with Lyon, on April 3, 2021.John Berry / Getty Images

Tite, the Brazil coach, has put his trust in Lucas Paquetá. In 2019 he included him on the payroll of the Canarinha who won the Copa América at home. He was not a starter, but he learned the trade with Casemiro, Arthur and Coutinho. This year, the Brazilian coach has given him more minutes to be Neymar’s partner in attack. Except for Peru’s first match in the group stage, Paquetá has participated in most of his team’s games. He has also contributed two goals against Chile in the quarterfinals (1-0) and against Peru (1-0) in the semifinals. “I am very happy to be able to help the national team and Neymar,” he said after the last game.

“Paquetá is a great player, he has been growing in each game in each game he has played for the national team,” says Neymar. The connection between the two has been important to achieve the last goals, as if they were playing football-tennis. Paquetá, at its best, returns to the Maracana.

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