WORDS WITH: LUCAS PIAZON
With the 18-year-old prospect having made his debut a fortnight ago, it is high time he sat down for his first full interview with the official Chelsea website…
Last month for Lucas Piazon began with his participation in an Under-21 league match at Stamford Bridge - a 5-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers. Twenty-four days later the young Brazilian made his Chelsea first team debut at Stamford Bridge, this time in a 6-0 win with Wolves again the opposition.
Similarities between the two occasions are clear, and one of the biggest complements that can be paid to Piazon about his senior bow is he looked as comfortable in a team containing John Terry, Gary Cahill, Ramires, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, as well as fellow full debutants Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses, as he did in the more junior line-up three weeks earlier.
If there was one difference it was that he couldn't match his two goals in the Under-21 outing, one scored from a rebound and the other from the penalty spot, but that is a small detail as he had every reason to be pleased with his first 90 minutes in the senior side, even if he does admit to having felt some disappointment that one of the goals hadn't been his.
'But I was happy because of the other parts of the game and then after, Robbie [Di Matteo] spoke to me and Steve [Holland] spoke to me and I realised that it was really good,' Piazon tells the official Chelsea website.
The 18-year-old is naturally pleased when it is suggested he looked like he belonged on the night and reveals a confident approach to making the step-up. His was the pass that Ryan Bertrand hammered into the net for the second out of the six goals.
'You don't need to be nervous, nor too excited when you are playing in the first team. You need to be calm because if you are here it is because you can play. You just need to do your job and play your game.
'The match was good, the team played very well and the start was very important. In 20 minutes we were 3-0 up and it was good for the players who were not playing so often to get minutes.'
Piazon's debut game came one year after he arrived to begin life at Chelsea. It was first announced in March 2011 that a pre-contract agreement was finalised for the transfer from Sao Paulo FC of a player at the time impressing for Brazil at the South American Under-17 Championships.He had previously been topscorer at the equivalent Under-15 tournament.
After moving to England in September 2011, it was a steady acclimatisation - his first competitive youth and reserve games both coming in November, one playing on the left flank and one on the right. By December he was ready for a full role in the march towards lifting the FA Youth Cup, playing all eight games, scoring three times in open play and twice in penalty shoot-outs.
Included in the goals was a strike against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge that proved to be the winner in the two-legged semi-final and is one of Piazon's favourites so far. Another was in an away reserve win against Arsenal. They can be seen in the video above.
He played 13 youth games in total and made 10 reserve appearances, scoring four times for the second string. The performances were sufficient to win the Chelsea Young Player of the Year award, and a place on the first team's summer tour of the USA during which he scored against Paris St-Germain in New York.
'When I arrived I started in the reserve squad and I was playing so many games in the youth team to get adapted to English football,' he says, 'and I think this was very important for me. Now I have been playing with the first team, the most important moment in my career, so the youth team and the reserves helped me a lot to be where I am now.
'In America I could score a goal which was nice and this pre-season is important for the youngsters to get a chance to play, and for Chelsea to be able to give us a chance. I really enjoyed the tour and it was a great experience in my life.'
A month ago Piazon was told he is now a full member of the first team squad, using the changing room in the main building at Cobham and training every day with the senior players, although on occasions he is playing for our Under-19 and Under-21 teams, such as last Friday at Brentford. He welcomes such match action.
He is now at the stage in his development he would have been wishing to reach quickly when he decided to leave the fertile football land of Brazil for England.
'Every boy that is born there, the first sport that he plays is football,' he says. 'I was born in Sao Paulo but when I went to school there I was very small so I didn't play football, but then I moved down to the south of the country when I was six years old and at my first school in the south I started playing. I used to also play at night with the players who were older than me. Every day I was playing football.
'We play at school, we play in the clubs and then when we go back home we mix with people who play in the street and put down two cones and play freely and have fun. In some buildings they have a small pitch with five against five and you are always playing football.'
Futsal, to give the organised, indoor five-a-side game its formal title, is played with a slightly smaller ball than regular football and develops characteristic skills. Former Chelsea midfielder Deco explained that due to his futsal upbringing, he controlled the ball by stepping down on it rather than using his instep throughout his illustrious career.
'When we move to the big pitch it is hard because we do the first touch like this so we get a bit confused, but now I never do this anymore, just the normal way. I still use some of the futsal techniques a bit and it is good because futsal is in a small space and that helps you when play football and there are a lot of players in a small space.'
Piazon was fortunate to come from a family background where a good education was possible as well as encouragement on a sporting front. When football started to become important in his life he was told as long as he continued to do well at school his parents would always support his playing. Fortunately the good grades kept coming, with his favourite subjects geography and Portuguese.
'When I was very young I used to like maths but that got too hard. When it was just numbers I was very good!' he recalls with a smile. His English can't have been bad either if his current, articulate use of the language is anything to go by.
He started to play for the junior side of local club Coritiba and then Atletico Paranaense, where he would also go with friends to watch the first team play. And then came a move to Sao Paulo FC, back in his native city and the club that developed former Chelsea man Juliano Belletti, as well as Brazilian legends Kaka and Cafu, and more recently Oscar.
'The difference between the academy at Chelsea and the one at Sao Paulo and the other academies in Brazil is we have many more players in Brazil,' points out Piazon. 'At Sao Paulo in the Under-15s you have 25 players, the Under-17s you have 25, the Under 20s, 20.
'But I think the quality doesn't change too much. The players in Brazil they like to pass more, here they are more strong so it is hard to compare because it is a different way to play - but if you played Chelsea v Sao Paulo at Under-15s or Under-17s it would be a very good game.'
The support from his parents extended to them moving to live in England a few months after he joined Chelsea and they are there at any game he might possibly play. But he was unlikely to lack Brazilian company at the club anyway. It could be a lazy assumption to think all our Brazilians like to spend time together but in this case that conviviality appears genuine.
'When I came there were three Brazilians already here and when Oscar came there were three as well and I think it was good for him, how it was for me,' says Piazon.
'It helps you to adapt and to get closer to the people in the club and that is really important. We are always together, in each other's houses, in David's house, in Rami's house, and it is good to be like this.'
Settled in England and moving forward at Chelsea (in January he signed a contract extension until 2017), Piazon fits well with the style of football being developed at the club.
'I think I can play right wing, left wing or no. 10, or as a last option striker as well. I think my best position is left wing but if I need to play any of the others then that is no problem.'
Nothing of course is to be taken for granted when it comes to team selection, but he must be looking at the Capital One Cup date with Manchester United at the end of the month, hoping to make another step forward in his promising, young career.