With former AC Milan attacker Lucas Paqueta playing an important role at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar with Brazil, fellow countryman and former Serie A legend, Cafu, has claimed that the current West Ham United player lacked maturity when leaving South America for Italy.
Paqueta has played 12 times this season for the Premier League side, getting three assists before the World Cup break.
The former Rossoneri full-back told La Gazzetta dello Sport that Paqueta “was too young and Milan gave him too much responsibility,” suggesting that the 25-year-old “would have [always] needed time [to be a success at Milan].”
The ex-AS Roma defender noted that, since leaving Italy in 2020, “Paqueta now has more personality and knows how to stay on the pitch [rather than get substituted]”.
What went wrong at AC Milan for Paqueta
Despite the undoubted talent that the Brazilian displayed with Flamengo, it is debatable whether 18 goals in 98 appearances in all competitions, and having become a full international two months earlier, warranted the Milanese giants paying out €35 million to take the youngster from his homeland.
The Rossoneri were also in a period of upheaval, with the Elliott Management Corporation having recently taken control of the club and their supporters craving a first major honour in seven years. With a Milanisti hero, Gennaro Gattuso as coach, things looked positive, but the first team squad was unbalanced. That resulted in a fellow winter signing, Krzysztof Piatek, arriving from Genoa.
With the Polish striker also trying to find his feet at the San Siro, you can hardly blame a 21-year-old Paqueta for failing to supply the ammunition for the misfiring frontman.
After allowing for him to adjust to his new surroundings, though, a poor attacking output despite 27 Serie A appearances, saw Milan cash in before he lost too much value amid a global pandemic.
A fresh start in France
Receiving just €20 million from Lyon for the Brazilian would have been a disappointment, but the reinvestment in the team that would lift the Scudetto within two years has paid off. Ligue 1 has provided the perfect environment for Paqueta to settle in European football, away from one of the continent’s most demanding divisions.
Nine goals in 30 league appearances was a far greater return than the playmaker ever looked likely to achieve in Italy and, when posting similar numbers during the following campaign, was given the award for the best foreign player in the French top-flight for 2021/22.
Becoming a fixture with his national team, Lyon could not ignore the riches on offer from the Premier League and Paqueta departed for London in a €50m deal, with little concern for his World Cup place.
Older, wiser, and with the experience of three of Europe’s major championships, the attacker plays with the confidence first displayed with careless abandon in Brazil.
Whether Paqueta returns to Serie A is a question for the future, but if he does, he is unlikely to face the same challenges as his first experience of Italy.