After a rough two years in Europe, Lucas Silva has returned home after failing to find a role at Real Madrid. What went wrong for the Brazilian midfielder?
A couple of years ago in January 2015, Brazilian midfielder Lucas Silva completed his transfer from Cruzeiro to Spanish giants Real Madrid for around $18 million to much gasps of anticipation from the local press, who had heard great things from across the Atlantic.
One of the less heralded winter transfer moves has now seen the 23-year-old midfielder returning to his old club on an 18-month loan deal after a torrid experience in Europe. So what went wrong?
After guiding Corinthians to Club World Cup victory in December 2013 – beating Chelsea in the final – current Brazil boss, Tite, took a sabbatical year and decided to head to Europe in order to study tactics. During this period, he had several meetings with Carlo Ancelotti, the Real Madrid boss at the time.
The two managers had built a close relationship. A couple of months later, Real Madrid was hunting for a central midfielder in the January transfer market. During a phone call between Carlo and Tite, the latter recommended Lucas Silva. Cruzeiro had dominated the Brazilian league for two straight years, and Lucas was voted the best defensive midfielder in the country following his strong performances.
What was so special about Lucas? Over the past 15 years or so, the Brazilian school had been too busy producing destructors, the art of passing had been almost forgotten. The typical Brazilian primeiro volante was – and to some extent still is – considered by many as a third center back, rather than a deep-lying playmaker with the objective to create.
It was no surprise that Lucas, who prioritized constructing play over destroying it, received special treatment from Brazilian press. Maybe if he wasn’t Brazilian, it would not have been a big deal. In Italy, it is rare to see top sides using a destroyer. They replace it with a regista. Lucas was stylistically far closer to an Italian regista than a Brazilian destroyer. A regular at Brazil U20 and the Olympic NT level, the best defensive midfielder in Brazil – all at 21 – his transfer was not a surprise.
Silva chose the champions of Europe but the pressure for an immediate impact was too high. Ancelotti loaned Casemiro, benched Sami Khedira and Asier Illaramendi because the Italian didn’t deem them creative enough. But Lucas failed to provide that creativity and always played the safe option rather than taking risks.
Despite an impressive debut away to Schalke in the Champions League, the midfielder did not do enough to retain his place and was quietly loaned to Marseille, with the hope of developing him in a similar experience to Casemiro’s at Porto.
At that time, it seemed the right move for club and player, and the expectations for Lucas to have a breakout season were high. But this is where everything went wrong. Silva’s performances at Marseille did not improve, and he was deemed surplus to requirements at the Ligue Un club. Towards the end of the season, Lucas was diagnosed with a serious heart condition, which almost caused him to retire.
Was it a long-term issue, and one of the main reasons as to why his level suddenly dropped, or did he simply need more time to adjust to Europe? We might never know the real reason, but one thing is sure, Cruzeiro’s beloved kid is back home – and at his young age, time is still on his side to revive his career and perhaps finally realise his potential.