Chelsea have been targeting Brazilians lately, bringing in Ramires over the summer and David Luiz in January. There have also been rumors heavily linking the club to moves for Kaka and Neymar over the upcoming summer. Today news broke that Chelsea have indeed signed another Brazilian, but this one comes as a relative surprise to most. Lucas Piazon, who just turned 17 in December, had been heavily linked to a move from Sao Paulo to Juventus. The young attacker is most often used as an attack minded central midfielder, but has also played on both wings (he's considered equally effective with both feet) and as a striker in his club (youth level only so far) and international career (Brazilian U15 and U17). He may eventually be best suited as a striker or center forward if he continues to grow, but at this point he just needs playing time. Regardless of position though, Piazon has a real eye for goal. He's led his Brazilian U15 level teams in scoring in each of the last two seasons, and is currently doing so again at the U17 level.
Piazon currently stands slightly over 6 feet tall (and still growing), and is well built for a player of his technical ability. That type of size should serve him well in the Premier League. Like most top Brazilians, he's very good with the ball at his feet. He's a true speedster, and his first touch is exceptional. His balance is considered to be excellent, and he's fairly solid in the air. He's also a very workmanlike player, although he's proven to be somewhat lacking in his tackling. As a box to box player, Piazon has a lot of work to do on his defense. Largely due to that, he's used almost exclusively in attacking roles.
What separates Piazon from most, though, is his exceptional vision. When he gets the ball he rarely loses it, and can dribble beyond most defenders with ease. His passing is very good, and he's a lethal finisher. With his vision of the pitch, he seems to spot passes and runs before they open up. Because of his position, unusual size and skill combination, and Brazilian heritage he naturally draws many comparisons to Kaka. I'll have some video after the jump.This video (sorry about the quality) will give you an idea of what
As you can see, he's got a knack for both scoring and setting others up. He also really does look a lot like Kaka. While the fee of about 8 million Euros may seem steep, getting Piazon under contract now assures that he will qualify as "homegrown" according to the FA's new rules if he's still with the squad when he turns 21. He's been one of the most sought after players in South America for some time, and Arsenal and Juventus have been trying to acquire him since he was 14 (his "contract" with Sao Paulo was considered somewhat dubious at the time). He was named the player of the tournament at the Nike Premier Cup in 2009, no small feat considering the tournament boasted 9800 teams entered into it. He excelled in the world finals in Old Trattford, scoring 5 goals and assisting on 6 others in the 3 games he played there. Like any youngster we add to the academy, Piazon is still risky. Regardless of risk though, his combination of size, athleticism, and skill will instantly make him one of the most exciting prospects in Europe.
If you happen to have the day free tomorrow, he'll be starting for the Brazil U17 squad in the South American championships on ESPN3 at 3 EST. Unfortunately, that also happens to be the start time of the FA youth cup game against Man U and 45 minutes before the start of our Champions League tie with Copenhagen. Still, if you're watching the game on TV it might be worth having the game streaming on the side. Piazon will reportedly be staying in Brazil until the January window of next season (right after his 18th birthday).
One other major factor to consider here is that this is our fourth Brazilian who will be training in Cobham. As many soccer economists have noted in the past, Brazilians have had trouble adapting to the English game in large part due to the relative lack of South Americans in English clubs. The game on the pitch is more physical, ad they have had difficulty adapting to the way of life off the pitch. The combination of these two factors has led many South Americans to really struggle in England (Robinho seems to be a great recent example).
Because of this, players like Ronaldinho and Kaka have chosen destinations on continental Europe as opposed to English clubs, and many Brazilians have opted to start their careers elsewhere. One of the reasons Neymar extended his stay in Santos last summer was reportedly his reluctance to join a Chelsea outfit which at the time boasted only one South American in their senior squad and none at the youth level. With this signing, Chelsea seem to be asserting their presence in South America in much the same way they did in Africa when Abramovich first arrived, and that can only help in the long term regardless of how Piazon turns out. All in all, this was a very good move by Chelsea and really has helped me forget the disappointing results in today's Champions League action.