What happened to Lucas Piazon?
Andreas Christensen? Cesar Azpilicueta? Marko van Ginkel? No, Chelsea’s oldest player is the man, the myth, the legend that is Lucas Piazon.
After refusing Juventus’ advances in favor of Chelsea, the light Brazilian striker – inevitably and unnecessarily referred to as “the new Kaka” – arrived at Stamford Bridge, without a high profile appearance to his name in January 2012.
Piazon impressed in Chelsea’s youth ranks and even won a 16-minute Premier League start at the end of 2012, despite questioning the “will to win” of his teammates, or rather his non-teammates. Brazilians the week before.
Nevertheless, when a Malaga loan from Manuel Pellegrini was suggested at the end of the year, Piazon was still the brilliant young Chelsea prospect who needed a few more minutes for the first team. Little did he know that a six-month layover would turn into an eight-year cycle of temporary hearths, substitute appearances and diminishing promises.
Still, with a supposedly merciful end in sight, what happened to Piazon in the decade since those modest first steps into Chelsea loan limbo.
Piazon’s first two loans were full of promise and growth as the weedy teenager adjusted to European football. After making his Champions League debut and enjoying a steady drop of senior minutes with Malaga, Piazon joined Vitesse in the 2013/14 campaign for, as he would later say, “essentially my first season as a professional football player ”.
With 11 goals, eight assists and over 2,000 minutes on the pitch, Piazon never improved on any of those scores in a single season over the following years.
Piazon would later admit that Chelsea “often didn’t like what I said in interviews” but were full of hope and optimism during this time, speaking of their desire to prove themselves in other leagues before returning to West London and to the First Team.
In the summer of 2014, Piazon’s ambitions to break through at Chelsea appeared to be waning. Before playing a minute for Eintracht Frankfurt, he made the bold statement: “If all goes well, I can certainly imagine staying in Frankfurt.”
Unfortunately, the Brazilian struggled to adjust to the pace of the Bundesliga – later revealing: “After the first game, I stayed on the pitch, almost dead.” Piazon would mark his stay with a nasty last-minute free-kick winner against Hamburg, but was abandoned for the next game. In April, the Frankfurt hierarchy made it clear that Piazon would not stay.
Perhaps in an attempt to garner attention with a spell closer to home, Piazon fell to the championship with Reading, for a 2015/16 campaign that consisted of brief flashes before heading back down the road.
It was that summer, in 2016, that Piazon first raised concerns about Chelsea’s loan system, which at that time numbered no less than 38 players. Piazon lamented: “I no longer see it as a positive thing. Being in a different place every year isn’t good for me at 22. ”
However, he cautioned his comments with a hopeful conclusion: “I still want to get to Chelsea, of course. Maybe I can come back in the future. ” May be…
In 2016 Piazon stayed in West London but also remained in the Championship, moving to Fulham. Now firmly established as a winger, Piazon impressed enough at Craven Cottage to have an extended first semester until the summer, then renewed for the next campaign.
Injuries may have marred Piazon’s two campaigns in white and black, but the great man has insisted that the first club to ever host him for more than a season will be his permanent home.
At the end of the 2017/18 campaign, with Fulham in the Premier League, Piazon told Brazilian publication Globo Esporte: “I would like to stay because I feel really good here. I like to play with my teammates. I like the ground. For me, I would stay.
Sadly, Piazon was denied his move and apparently any playing time. Although he was included in Chelsea’s Premier League squad in 2018/19, he hasn’t benched once. As the clubs actively distance themselves from the serial loan, Serie A club Chievo gave Piazon another temporary escape hatch in January 2019.
After just 80 minutes of football in six months, Piazon’s patience had practically waned. Fifteen days after joining Portugal’s Rio Ave on loan in September 2019, Piazon made his most ruthless (and realistic) assessment of his Chelsea career: “My time at Chelsea is already over.”
It should be noted that Piazon has no ill will towards his distant employers, later clarifying his position, via Twitter, that “I love Chelsea FC and everyone who works there”. Although he told Maisfutebol in October 2020 that Chelsea would only agree to loan him out if he signed another contract extension.
Eight years after Piazon’s debut at Chelsea, the Brazilian made three first-team appearances for the club, signed five contract extensions and embarked on seven loan spells.