Chelsea’s longest serving player, Lucas Piazon, has finally departed the club. A mixture of bad luck and timing kept him from being a star.
Lucas Piazon joined Chelsea in the winter window of 2012, just before the club would win the Champions League. Though he was not to be part of that particular celebration, he was present as the Chelsea academy lifted the FA Youth Cup for the second time since the 60s.
Piazon hung about the club briefly before going on a series of difficult loans through La Liga, the Eredivisie, and the Bundesliga. Strangely, that was followed up with Championship loans. While at Fulham, his ankle was broken and required surgery. Since then, he has kicked around Serie A and the Primeira Liga with a very strange stint at Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea just before. He has now been transferred to SC Braga.
What happened with the Brazilian once called “the new Kaka”? It was a mixture of bad luck and poor timing that kept him out of the Chelsea side ultimately. The club’s longest serving player played just three matches for the first team in his nine years contracted to the club. Had he joined at a different time, he might have been what he was promised to be.
It will be lost to history that Chelsea was attempting a significant rebuild in the 2011/2012 season. Most know of Andre Villas-Boas and his (failed) attempts to replace the old guard, but few really recognize the moves Chelsea was making in the 2011/2012 season to facilitate this transition. Piazon had been proceeded by Thibaut Courtois, Oriol Romeu, and Romelu Lukaku. He was joined by Kenneth Omeruo, Patrick Bamford, and Kevin De Bruyne. Before the Champions League win, the likes of Marko Marin were signed. But that big eared trophy changed everything.
With the trophy they had always coveted most in their case, the Blues transitioned from building towards the future to building the best team for the moment. Some signings, such as Oscar, towed the line with both. Others, such as Eden Hazard and Cesar Azpilicueta, came firmly down on the moment side of things. It is a testament to Piazon that he did not immediately wash away in the growing tide of the loan army.
Piazon did find his chances hard to come by however. Roberto Di Matteo started him twice in the league cup, against Wolverhampton and Manchester United. The next time he would play, it would be as a substitute for Rafa Benitez. Shortly thereafter he began his loan army journey with an ambitious loan to then high flying Malaga.
That was followed up with Vitesse (as they became the go to destination for Chelsea loanees). He excelled there before shifting over to Frankfurt in the Bundesliga. Again, he did well but that loan was strangely followed up by Reading and then Fulham. It is now normal for loanees to go from many first divisions to the Championship, but not from one of the top leagues in Europe to the Championship. This was the first indication that things might not be going as well as they appeared.
Piazon still played well before his injury, which surely stalled any forward momentum he had. It is still unclear why Sarri opted to keep him around for the first half of his season given he never played the Brazilian (but then again, Sarri was the master of including players while having no intention of including them). Piazon followed that up with a loan to Serie A where he struggled to feature.
Since then, the Brazilian has rebuilt himself in Portugal. His loan to Rio Ave was cancelled only to facilitate his transfer to Braga. At 26, the player once known as the “new Kaka” has found himself a home outside of Chelsea.
Had Piazon joined at a different time where the youth had a better chance of playing, he might have been a superstar. Had he not suffered his terrible injury while at Fulham, he surely would have risen up to Premier League contention. But that mix of joining at the wrong time and bad luck kept him from achieving all he could with Chelsea.
Portugal is no small league and he will surely continue to excel in the league with Braga as he did with Rio Ave. His transfer marks the end of an era for the former longest serving Blues player. Best of luck to the “new Kaka”.