‘High expectations for our record signing but can Lucas deliver?’

As our Brazilian prepares to shine in Qatar, Michael Johnson hopes Paquetá will come good

Lucas Paqueta (WHU) at the West Ham United v Leicester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on November 12, 2022.

Signing Brazilian international Lucas Paquetá to become our eighth and final signing of the summer window filled me with such joy. Acquiring the Lyon midfielder for £51m on a five-year deal was obviously a very expensive move, which I desperately hoped would succeed.

Considering the last time our club record was broken was with Haller, I just hoped history wouldn’t repeat itself.   With our record signing now gearing up to represent Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar, and with limited game time in claret and blue so far this season because of injury, I wanted to catch up with fans of his previous clubs to get a better idea of the type of player we may have on our hands.

After starting his career at Flamengo, Paquetá was sold to AC Milan in 2019 for just shy of £35 million. Obviously high expectations came with that price tag, being only 21 at the time.  AC Milan fan Gard Wanderoy told me he was pleased when he arrived thinking this was ‘the next Kaka’. ‘Unfortunately, he was a bit pricey, meaning that fans would have a valid excuse to turn on him if he didn’t deliver.’

Gard said he would often attempt too much skill when he could just choose an easier option, something I’ve also noticed at his start with us. ‘A lot of us grew very fond of him, he was very young when he arrived, and obviously had the quality. I hope he shines at West Ham.’

But another AC Milan fan told me: ‘He just wasn’t good enough for us.”  They admitted he was part of a ‘dysfunctional system’ but believed he never developed into what they had hoped. ‘Too much flash, not enough technical skill and grit for Serie A.’

He then signed for Lyon for just over £20m – a massive drop in value. Lyon fan Quiche Lovren told me: ‘When he played for Lyon, he was probably the best player on the pitch. I was very angry when I discovered that he was linked with West Ham.’

He couldn’t believe it since he was targeting ‘bigger’ clubs, although that could be a slightly bitter opinion after last year’s 3-0 second leg. He thinks Paquetá was pushed away by their board who were desperate for money and really misses his presence since they lack creativity in their midfield.

Another Lyon fan Larry L’oiseau told me: ‘He’s a very good player but sometimes you feel like he doesn’t really want to play. ‘I was upset when I saw him leaving because he was very necessary in the transition between the midfield and the attack of the team. He could be one of the best midfielders in the league.’

Hearing previous fans often expecting high amounts due to his price tag, I worry this could happen again with us. His debut for us came two days after his unveiling. I was excited yet nervous to see him play due to the little time with our squad.

An eruption of applause as he entered the pitch in the 67th minute was expected, I even noticed a Brazil flag in the distance. It seemed we were amazed every time he touched the ball, even if it was a simple pass.

With a late minute long throw being flicked into Paquetá’s path I foresaw the next day’s headlines, hoping he could squeeze the ball through a sea of Spurs players.  Admittedly, I got even further on the edge of my seat 10 seconds later when Bowen narrowly sliced the ball across goal.

Facing the undefeated Spurs, I was surprisingly despondent considering the chances we had after Paquetá entered the pitch. Even though he wasn’t particularly involved in said chances, I had high hopes for his upcoming games, thinking he would develop more chemistry with the boys.

These subsequent games, however, have not delivered. Losing our next two games in the Premier League, it frustrated me watching most of the squad’s performances, not just our record signing. Paquetá, however, seems to lose the ball so often.

With a player of his calibre, I was baffled how often he would be dispossessed through a sloppy heavy touch.   The worst thing is he’ll often try to rectify this and foul a player in frustration.

The optimist in me is hoping he just needs to adapt to our league and he’ll be back to his top form as he gets used to the Premier League. The Brazilian international’s class secured him a place in their squad in the World Cup.

Playing recently against Ghana, Paquetá almost got an assist with an amazing cross to Antony after a great combination with Neymar. It does feel good knowing a West Ham player is linking up with the likes of Neymar and I just hope he can bring some of that talent back when he’s playing for us.

Overall, we can all tell he’s got a lot of skill. As long as he gels with the squad and the fanbase doesn’t put too much pressure on him, he could be amazing.

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