EXCLUSIVE: Chelsea-loanee Lucas Piazon makes Vitesse fans forget all about Bony and Van Ginkel
At just 19-years-old, Lucas Piazón has had a remarkably exciting and eventful career. Before exiting his teen years, the Brazilian has been moved halfway across the world to join Chelsea at 17, then sent away for a short period with Malaga and latterly shipped out to the Eredivisie to play for Vitesse, where he finds himself now. He has played in the Premier League (setting up a goal on his debut) and against the big teams in La Liga (he featured against Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and more) and even seen some Champions League action. It would be easy, then, for someone his age to become pretentious, pompous or conceited. On the other hand, though, having played in four countries at such a young age and having being moved about with such regularity, it would be just as easy for a youngster to become frustrated, tired or disheartened. Piazón, though, is neither. He is loving life and sees an opportunity in every twist and turn of his career. He is just a precocious talent. A humble and modest one at that.
“He is a joy both on and off the pitch,” the club’s press officer assures me. Admittedly, not a neutral source of opinion, but there is nothing from my conversation with the player himself to suggest anything to the contrary.
The long-term possibilities for this young man are plentiful and seem rather outlandish, but the forward simply laughs them off. Are the Chelsea coaches paying attention? “[laughs] I hope so!” The Dutch media hail you as ‘the new Kaka’. “[laughs] I wish I could be like him!” Can you make the Brazil squad for the World Cup? “[laughs] No, no, Brazil has a great group. To make it next year will be almost impossible.”
While he admits the World Cup is beyond him, the teenager is as ambitious as any professional. He has his “dreams” of playing in the Premier League with Chelsea alongside his compatriots David Luiz, Oscar and Ramires, as well as representing his country. But at the moment he is focusing on the short-term and wants to develop and improve in the correct way. He knows he is only at the beginning of a long road, but he has an abundance of time. Experience and learning, he says, are crucial, while the lack of stability brought on by spells in so many countries has helped him, not hindered him.
“The time I spent in Malaga was great,” Piazón tells BeNeFoot.net. “I played in the Champions League and in La Liga so it was good. They had a lot of experienced players in the team and it was great to be there. I learned a lot in the four months that I spent there.
“When I came back for preseason I thought I would need another loan to play more first-team football. To be fair, I didn’t play too many games at Malaga so I needed to come somewhere else to get the time and games.”
The London club then sent him out for a season long loan with Dutch side Vitesse, which has become somewhat of a feeder club for the European giants, harbouring a total of six Chelsea players in the first-team this season.
Following up such an exciting year in which he made great strides with a season in the Eredivisie doesn’t seem like the biggest reward. However, he doesn’t see it as a step down, just another learning experience.
“I saw it as a good opportunity to get experience and play a full season and also to learn and improve myself. I don’t see it as a step down, it’s not a problem. I just want to play games and get better.”
Although the Netherlands is a different lifestyle, language and culture to any he has experienced before, the winger feels right at home in his new surroundings. “It’s a very nice place. The club is full of nice people as well and I am feeling good and comfortable with everything.
“[Arnhem] is very nice, it’s not too big. It’s very small compared to the cities I have lived in before but it’s very beautiful.
“I’m enjoying it.”
And enjoying it he should be. His impact has been instantaneous and huge. The 19-year-old has scored an impressive five goals in eight games, getting two assists along the way. Dutch football, it seems, suits him very well. He views it as an invaluable learning opportunity as he looks to develop into a player worthy of becoming a regular starter at Stamford Bridge.
“Every team in Holland tries to play football and build up from behind. The game is not as strong as it is in England, it’s a bit slower, so it’s more similar to Spain than it is to England.
“It’s not so physical and I think that helps me. In England, the game was a bit more physical and sometimes I lost the ball because I couldn’t protect it well.
“So I think here is better for me because I am not as strong, but when I go back there I will be a bit stronger and better. This is a good place for me to get experience.”
He knows his weaknesses, which gives him a big advantage, but his skill, technique, speed and intelligence make him an asset for a club like Vitesse. What’s truly impressive about the Sao Paulo born attacker, however, is not just the number of goals he is scoring, but the timing and importance of them.
Announcing himself in the league with a brace in a 3-0 win against PEC Zwolle which saw the blauw-witten knocked off the top of the table, Piazón’s influence in the team has grown immensely. The following week, he played a crucial role in his first local derby as his side travelled to Nijmegen to meet N.E.C.
A tough but thoroughly exciting affair, N.E.C striker Michael Higdon’s 85th minute goal made it 2-2 and seemed to have ensured both sides would leave with a point. Vitesse piled forward in the final minutes, though, desperate for that invaluable winning goal against their fierce rivals. When Gaël Kakuta and Davy Pröpper both struck the bar, the victory looked beyond Vitesse, but Piazón had other ideas. A high ball dropped to Valeri Qazaishvili and he squared it to the Chelsea-loanee who smashed it home from the edge of the box with only 30 seconds left in stoppage time.
It was fitting that it was he who should score the winner. N.E.C have been the biggest critics of the influx of Chelsea players who have been adopted on loan by Vitesse. To make it even sweeter, as the ball nestled into the bottom corner, just yards away hung a banner in front of the N.E.C fans which read “Nijmegen lives, Arnhem Chelsea trembles”, to further mock the recruitment strategy of the club.
“For me, this was the special one,” the match winner recalls. “I was very, very happy that I could score at the last minute to win the game. A very special day in my life.”
While it is N.E.C who have trembled, sitting third bottom of the league, Vitesse have thrived. And Piazón is crucial to their success. Although two straight defeats followed that match – a scrappy 2-1 loss to ADO in Den Haag on a very rough surface and another to Feyenoord – the player dug his team out of a hole to prevent it from becoming three in a row.
Falling 2-0 behind Heerenveen less than five minutes into the second-half last week, it seemed Vitesse were done for. Again, though, Piazón and his team still had some belief.
“When they scored the second goal, of course you always think ‘today won’t be our day’. We were only thinking about a draw at that point.”
Piazón himself halved the deficit in the 54th minute, controlling a Mike Havenaar pass before slotting past Kristoffer Nordfeldt. Then, 18 minutes later, he sent a dangerous free-kick into the box which evaded everyone and flew into the net. With the score tied deep into injury time, he chested down a diagonal ball, protected it and passed to Patrick van Aanholt, another player on loan from Chelsea, who smacked it into top corner to secure the three points.
“It was great. I got a bit lucky and scored from a free kick and then at the last minute, I set up Patrick on the edge of the box and he hit a great strike to win the game.
“It was important because we suffered two defeats before it, so three points against Heerenveen was very important for us.”
His importance to Vitesse is arguably akin to that of Marco van Ginkel of last season. A blistering campaign saw the 20-year-old midfielder catch the attention of Jose Mourinho and earned him a transfer to the Premier League giants. It’s a story which is comforting to the loanee, who is desperate to follow in the Netherlands international’s footsteps.
“I hope to make it the same way. He had a great season and went to Chelsea so I hope to do the same thing that he did.”
He remains patient though. He understands he must develop a long way before he is ready.
“I came from Brazil at 17 to play for Chelsea. Of course I want to play there as soon as possible, but I know here is an important place where I have to do very well to get there.”
There aren’t many better teams Chelsea could have sent him to. Vitesse challenged the league’s big guns for the title until the final weeks of last season and they look just as potent this term too. Following the sale of Van Ginkel and Wilfried Bony (who scored 31 goals in 30 games before moving to Swansea) as well as a change in coach, it was expected that Vitesse would fall behind the leading pack this year. However, after ten games, they sit just two points behind current table toppers FC Twente and can overtake both them and Ajax today with a win over Groningen. FC Hollywood on the Rhine are in good shape and their star player believes they are in with a chance of being crowned Eredivisie champions this season for the first time in their history.
“We are two points behind the leaders after ten games. I think that’s good and we can dream about the title or the Champions League.”
If Vitesse are to go the distance with the Eredivisie’s big-guns, the former Coritiba youth player will be absolutely critical for them. Losing the goals and the dynamism of Van Ginkel and Bony was a big blow, but Piazón has done remarkably well to plug the gap and become his side’s key man so quickly. He is their top scorer and a consistently good performer, benefitting the league as much as it benefits him.
In playing in the Netherlands he is following the example of two of the greatest player’s his country, and indeed the world, has ever seen. Ronaldo and Romario both spent significant parts of their careers playing with PSV. The former joined the Eindhoven side at just 17, the latter at 22. Piazón, in between both of them, would love nothing more than to become a true legend like those two.
“I hope to follow those players and what they did here and then I can make the national team of the future.
“But it’s all a dream, we all want this.”
A dream it may be, but Piazón is definitely on the right path to reaching it. The player’s mentality is all about improving, learning and developing. He has the raw talent, intelligence, patience and wisdom to see him through the journey ahead as he looks to reach his ambitions of representing his country and making it into the club for which he travelled thousands of miles to play.