The Man Called Lucas
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on September 9, 2016
Lucas Pérez Martínez was born on the 10th of September 1988 and on the 30th of August 2016 his transfer from Deportivo was confirmed by historic North London football club The Arsenal, for a reported fee of £17.1 million. Frankly, beyond that, there is not a lot most people know about him. Most news articles detailing his recent move to Arsenal are longer than his Wikipedia page. That is not to say we know nothing about the man. We know he has made a living playing football, but at almost 28 he has only completed one full season of top flight football, in La Liga. This man called Lucas, well we know that in 2014 he returned, then on loan, to his hometown club of Deportivo de La Coruña after a career starting in the Atlético Madrid C football club in 2007. Pérez could have stayed and survived in the bottom echelon of Spanish professional football but that was not his fate. Perhaps what we can know of this man is not that no books are written about him, not the lack of athletic sponsorships, even his enigmatic history taken as a list of club transfers or goals scored do not really tell the story, but I can guess. What else we can know about the football player Arsenal fans are embracing with conservative wonder, is not in what is written already, but in what it all says about Lucas.
It would have been an easier road to, well really, anywhere for Pérez if he had stayed in Spain, but that was not the road he was on. After seeing Rayo Vallecano return to La Liga and struggling to get out of the B team Lucas took an odd path, moving as a free agent to the Ukraine in 2011. Suffice to say this was a character building experience, and perhaps if anything else is to be known of Pérez, if any insight can be gained by seeing what this man has done to get from C Spanish football all the way to last season’s second place English Premier League finisher Arsenal in eight years, it is that Lucas has character. Not the kind of character that one hears all too often tossed about when a player shows the ability to run back and forth for 90 minutes every week, the character of a man that knows what he has, because he knows how hard he has had to work for it. In the very little that I do know of Lucas Pérez he does not strike me as someone who takes things for granted. If someone can not only survive a ‘nightmare’ loan spell in 2013 to FC Dynamo Kyiv, but come back from it and a year later be playing for his boyhood club Deportivo, who were newly promoted to La Liga, he has shown resourcefulness and dedication. Lucas scored on his La Liga debut in 2014, but was subbed off the next game after 15 minutes due to injury, he only came back in January and scored a total of six goals for Dépor that season. All while Lucas was still on loan from Greek side PAOK, and with all that Dépor signed him on a permanent four-year deal the following season, where he contributed the most goals at 17 and tied his teammate, Luis Alberto, for most assists for Deportivo that season with seven. That season much was learned about the man called Lucas, he played on the biggest stage of his life, but at a club even some of Deportivo’s own supporters thought was too small for him. Starting as early as this weekend Lucas Pérez will be on an even larger stage, at one of the largest most historic football clubs in the world. Something in the sheepish grin the Arsenal club photographer caught when he snapped a photo of him jogging onto the training pitch at London Colney, seemed to acknowledge.
With Arsène Wenger giving Lucas the number nine jersey there can be no mistake even if he were not the first target for the club he is the club’s new striker. Arsenal supporters caution is understandable, they are depending on Lucas, and have been burnt before. Wenger signs a player no one has ever heard of and it ends up going awry, and who knows it could happen here too, but there is a very particular difference to this unknown player signing than most others Arsène Wenger has produced, and that is Lucas’s age. Sure it has taken him time to develop and playing for Deportivo is not the same as playing for The Arsenal, but it may well be that the time he has had to develop will make him the player Gooners need him to be. If Jamie Vardy was the first player Arsenal had eyed for the number nine, then it is safe to try and look at Lucas’s playing style through the lens of a player we know better, for lack of a better way than being able to consume a year’s worth of Deportivo games, knowing even then it would not be enough to really know how he might play in England. Both players also languished in football purgatory before being picked up by EPL teams, and both play with a fire and passion that they wear on their sleeve. Vardy and Lucas are similar in their runs too, and both are fearless in front of goal. Perhaps the best information we have about how Lucas is as a striker is what Arsenal’s other late signing, Shkodran Mustafi, who had to defend against him last season for Valencia had to say. “He is uncomfortable to play against,” Mustafi said to Arsenal’s media group. “He’s a good striker… he has everything a striker needs.” Mustafi went on to say he worked to make things happen on the pitch and showed an instinct to be in the right place at the right time. That sounds a bit like Vardy to me, all be it with a clear difference. While I know more about how Vardy plays football I can’t say I have any idea what drives him, but with Lucas there is a clear desire to show to the world and himself what he is capable of. If Vardy would fit into Wenger’s system, then I am convinced Lucas would as well, and in fact may indeed be better motivationally suited.
As a man Lucas has had to push himself through difficult and testing circumstances, he was until very recently a man on the outside looking in. Now his days will be filled by the spotlight that playing for Arsenal brings, a red hue like no other. Arsenal fans may feel the need to reserve judgement, and no one can tell what will happen in anything, football included. We can know that Wenger’s numbers must align, a year playing in La Liga and Arsenal would have a good deal of data to analyze and plenty of games to confirm with. If Lucas is anything he is driven to play football, he is driven to win football games, and he is unafraid of putting in the real work to get there. He is someone who has given all his life in pursuit of this opportunity, and a man who knows what it means to not have it. A man driven to play this particular game, driven by his instincts towards the goal the way we all imagine a number nine would play, this is the man called Lucas.