How ‘new Kaka’ Lucas Paqueta has low key been one of signings of the season

Robin Bairner
How ‘new Kaka’ Lucas Paqueta has low key been one of signings of the season

While it has been Memphis Depay who has gained much attention for Lyon this season, Lucas Paqueta has been making an increasingly strong contribution for the Ligue 1 side after arriving from Milan last summer.

Paqueta, who was considered to be a modern version of 2007 Ballon d’Or winner Kaka when he arrived at the Rossoneri, was signed for €20 million last summer. Although that was a substantial investment for Lyon, he is repaying that price tag, establishing himself as one of the outstanding players in Ligue 1 this season.

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Indeed, if anything he is getting stronger by the week and as quietly established himself as one of the signings of the season in Europe this term.

Lyon boss Rudi Garcia has gradually learned that Paqueta is best given freedom in front of two more orthodox central midfielders. He has increasingly been given a licence to support the front players and his abilities to create, press and score have been a priceless concoction for Lyon.

The 23-year-old came through the first half of the season discreetly. Indeed, he was not decisive in any of his first 10 matches with Lyon. By the time he made his 15th appearance for the club in Ligue 1, he still only had a single goal and an assist to his name.

He has exploded since that point, though. Scoring the only goal of a 1-0 win over bottom side Dijon on 2 February appears to have been the catalyst for his improvement. In 14 games, he has weighed in with eight goals and four assists, striking more than any other Ligue 1 midfielder in that time.

Lucas Paqueta 2020/21

Appearances29
Starts26
Goals9
Assists5
Yellow Cards5
Red Cards1
Man of the Match2
Source: FootballCritic

His value to the club was underlined last weekend against Nimes, where he scored twice – a first since moving to Lyon – and created another.

Such performances have seen him once again involved in the Brazil national team, with whom he has played 13 times but typically found game time rather hard to come by.

However, if he can maintain the type of level he has shown in recent months, all that could be about to change.

Indeed, there is an argument that Paqueta has been Lyon’s main driving force in the second half of the season as they first pushed to win Ligue 1 but are now simply challenging to secure a Champions League spot.

Memphis, with 20 goals and 10 assists, may have more eye-catching numbers, but when he finally departs for Barcelona in the summer, Lyon already have a player capable of picking up his mantle as the club’s star.

For €20m, he is already looking excellent value, and it would be little surprise if some of Europe’s biggest clubs were looking at Paqueta this time next year and considering spending several times that in signing him. Milan’s loss has certainly been Lyon’s gain.