Lucas Paqueta: Liverpool's Next Brazilian Star?
Liverpool’s have seen several Brazilian players ply their trade at Anfield in recent years.
Lucas Leiva, Fabio Aurelio, Philippe Coutinho, Alisson, Roberto Firmino and Fabinho have all represented both the Reds’ and the Selecao in the last decade. The lesser spotted goalkeeping duo of Diego Cavalieri and Doni also donned the famous red and yellow and green.
Even Thiago, a Spanish representative of Brazilian origin, brings a samba flair to the Anfield club.
Looking ahead to the upcoming summer transfer window, Liverpool may well look to sign another Brazilian in order to bolster their squad.
With Georginio Wijnaldum very likely to leave Anfield in the summer upon the expiration of his contract, the Reds may look to replace the durable Dutchman in the summer market.
Although not entirely a similar player to Wijnaldum — who, at club level at least, is a positionally and defensively savvy midfielder — Lyon’s Lucas Paqueta could offer a new dimension to Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Previously linked to Liverpool while he was playing in Brazil for Flamengo, Paqueta joined AC Milan in the January of 2018. Despite the excitement and fanfare that pre-empted his arrival at the San Siro, the Brazilian failed to live up to these lofty expectations at Milan.
The Serie A team’s coach, Stefano Pioli, summed up the Brazilian international’s time at Milan as such: “For the quality he has, he has to become more decisive, in the final phase either you score goals or assist.”
With only one goal in 37 appearances for the Rossoneri, the 23-year-old decided to look to pastures new and in September 2020 he joined Lyon for €20,000,000.
The switch to Ligue 1 has had a resuscitating impact on Paqueta’s career, one which was potentially in danger of petering out. In 20 French league appearances this season, he has scored four goals and laid on two more goals for team-mates.
Playing on the right hand side of a midfield trio, the Brazilian — a natural left footer — has played the role similar to the way Manchester City players do. Paqueta often drifts wide and cuts in on his stronger foot, in the manner of an inside forward.
He plays with an ambition and a directness and, contrary to the issues in his game that Pioli flagged up during his time at Milan, is in the 98% for shots per 90 out of midfielders in Europe’s top 5 leagues with 2.33 per game.
Paqueta plays with matching levels of aspiration when looking to manufacture goals for others. The Brazil international finds himself in the 94% percentile for progressive passes with 7.05 per 90, while his relatively poor pass completion rate — 32% — highlights how often he tries to play “killer” passes with the intent of hurting the opposition.
He is also bloodyminded with his dribbling and looks to take the game to the opposition by carrying the ball. The former Flamengo youth completes 6.53 progressive carries per 9o — ranking him in the 87% percentile in this area — as well as succcesfully dribbling on 1.45 occasions per 90, which is better than 84% of his midfielder colleagues.
Off the ball, which — perhaps more than anything else — is always a key consideration when Klopp considers who he signs, Paqueta is both busy and effective. With 19.65 pressures — which are actions of pressure against players who are receiving, releasing or carrying the ball — per 90, the 23-year-old finds himself in the 74% percentile for this metric.
The Brazilian doesn’t shirk tackles either, registering 3.11 per 90, which is in the 88% percentile for midfielders in Europe’s top 5 leagues, a hefty number considering Paqueta is — for all intents and purposes — an attacking midfielder.
Standing 5’11” — which is as tall as any of Liverpool’s midfielders, excepting Jordan Henderson and Fabinho — Paqueta is strong in the air, as players in his position go. He wins 1.56 aerials per 90, which is in the top 70% for midfielders and could be a useful attribute both in defending and attacking set pieces.
An expressive attacking midfielder, the Brazilian plays a completetly different role to Wijnaldum, but could well be a viable option to replace the Dutchman, who — it was worth remembering — represents the Netherlands in a more attacking capacity than he is given latitude for at club level.
Perhaps Paqueta, who, at 23, is young enough to adapt can be moulded into a more defensively astute player, just like how Wijnaldum was moulded after joining the Reds from Newcastle United in 2016.
There is also the option that Liverpool change tact and look to play with a more offensive minded midfield next season and look to make the Lyon man — like they have given Curtis Jones licence to this season — a creative influence with free-reign to attack and influence the game in attack.
Either way, the 23-year-old could become the latest Brazilian to star in Liverpool red.