LUCAS PAQUETA IS AC MILAN'S NEW BRAZILIAN BOY
AC Milan are at it again. And by ‘at it’, I mean they're quite good. It’s not all there yet, but the coffee's roasting. Gattuso might not cut the same figure as Sacchi, Capello or even Ancelotti. Berlusconi's not hanging about in the background anymore with his big, plastic, moneymaking face either. But they're actually playing some proper nice football.
When it clicks, Milan have been on fire. They're built on a solid base at the back, rooted in the imperious Romagnoli. Their midfield is packed with talent, and they've got a decent number of flair players in the final third. This is a squad that has the tools to win. The problem has been their injury list, which is turning into one, big pile-on of broken players. It's getting to the point where you start to wonder if Paolo Maldini might dust off the boots, get himself kitted out down the club shop and come down from the stands to put a shift in at centre half. Partly because of it they went four games without scoring at one point in December, which is absolutely mental. As Big Gattuso said himself in that presser, "sometimes maybe good, sometimes maybe shit"
It's felt like they've been missing one crucial thing. A tricky, dancing Brazilian boy. Every AC Milan team needs one. Everyone will have one name that dribbles into their head with a ball stuck at their feet first if you ask them about a Brazilian that played for Milan. Mine is Cafu. He forms part of my favourite ever back line, alongside Stam, Nesta & Maldini and Dida in net. But the thing that I will always remember most about Cafu is not that he is one of the greatest right-backs to ever grace European football. Oh no. It's the massive love in he had with Jon Flanagan. Has everyone else forgotten about that? A bloke that is widely suggested to be one of the best full-backs of modern times, Brazil’s most capped player for Christ’s sake, was going about saying this Scouse teenager who’d played a handful of first team minutes was going to be one of the best full-backs in the world. What a wild time to be alive that was. Pure Butlins.
As ace as that South American backline was, most people’s minds drift to other names when you mention Milan and Brazil. Leonardo, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Pato, Robhino, Kaka. One, fat nostalgia trip. These are the players that make you want to flip the sofa over and go on that Brazilian gap year that you never had, man. Learn a bit of capoeira and take a new Twitter DP on those mosaic steps in Rio. Just imagine having had one of them play for your team. You wouldn't stop banging on about it, would you? You'd sit in the pub, pint in hand reminsicing about their golden moments to the barman who doesn't actually care and just wants to go home.
Milan have gone out and got themselves a brand new Brazilian boy. His name is Lucas Paquetá and he signed from Flamengo for a reported €35m. Comparing Paquetá to these genuine all-time legends is quite unfair. He's only 21. But that's not going to stop me from bigging him up to all my mates as the next Ronnie. I'll be throwing stats at them down at spoons next Friday. Did you know that he scored 10 goals from central midfield in 32 league appearences for Flamengo last year? Those kind of numbers put him up there with some of the best midfielders in the world, lads. He's already sniffing about the Brazilian national side too, having played in friendlies against the United States and El Salvador last year.
The Rossoneri and Brazilians love eachother. Absolutely bloody love each other. If I was Ivan Gazidis, I’d be serving up Caipirinha’s on the Curva Sud €4 a pop. But there’s no guarantee that Paquetá is going to be their next Brazilian all-star. No guarantee at all. But maybe, just maybe, he belongs to Jesus as well.