The 18-year-old showed promise with a match-saving display for the Blues at Yankee Stadium, but will still likely be overlooked this season in favour of expensive summer recruits
By Liam Twomey
A matter of hours after Internacional president Giovanni Luigi confirmed his prized asset Oscar has only to put pen to paper to become Chelsea’s latest big-money summer signing, another young Brazilian showed the Blues the value of the path less taken.
Roberto Di Matteo’s men looked to have condemned themselves to defeat to Paris Saint-Germain at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night after a disjointed and uninspiring performance which saw them comfortably outshone by Europe’s other big spenders.
Until, that is, the 81st minute, when substitute Lucas Piazon – as unfamiliar a name to most Blues fans now just as on his arrival from Sao Paulo in January of last year – neatly exchanged passes with Ramires before racing into the box and slotting home the equaliser.
Buoyed by the 18-year-old’s impressive impact, Chelsea finished strongly, and Florent Malouda spurned a good chance to net the winner. But at the whistle, Piazon remained the sole reason PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti had failed to get one over on his former club.
It is no doubt a moment Piazon will relish, and so he should – not least because as long as Roman Abramovich continues to covet the Oscars of this world, such moments may well prove few and far between.
Piazon is but the latest prodigious youngster to be touted for big things in Chelsea’s first team. The likes of Jeffrey Bruma, Gael Kakuta, Sergio Tejera, Fabio Borini, Jimmy Smith and Josh McEachran have all enjoyed similar billing at some point or other.
Some remain at Stamford Bridge, others have left, but all have failed to justify the hype, either because they were never good enough or – more commonly – because they found their ambitions stifled by a club which prizes short-term gratification over long-term planning.
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Bruma is fighting to prove his credentials in the company of several other jettisoned Chelsea youth stars on loan at Bundesliga outfit Hamburg, while McEachran opted for a stint with Swansea which ultimately afforded him the chance only to sit on a different bench.
Borini was more successful in the South of Wales, and has since rebuilt his career to the point of being one of the first signings of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool revolution. His attacking talents were missed at Yankee Stadium last night, as Romelu Lukaku delivered another performance which suggests he is a square peg in a round hole in the new Chelsea.
If Oscar does, as expected, decide to remain in London on a more permanent basis after the Olympics, he will not be competing for a place directly with Piazon who, rather than an orthodox playmaker, flourishes more as a winger or second striker.
Indeed, it is a couple of the Blues’ other high-profile summer arrivals, Eden Hazard and Marko Marin, who along with Juan Mata will be more responsible for keeping the talented but raw youngster in the reserves, while Oscar subjects McEachran to a similar fate.
But the end result is the same. In the Abramovich era, Chelsea is a club which has proven itself to be institutionally incapable of thinking in terms of years rather than months, and this summer’s transfer splurge, for all the excitement it generates, suggests little has changed.
Of course, Hazard and Marin – and Oscar – should prove sound long-term investments, but this is not primarily why they have been chosen. They have been chosen because they already possess the ability to help achieve the immediate success which is the club’s life blood.
Di Matteo, too, knows his role. He has a two-year contract but, like every other manager hired by Abramovich, he knows that a second year will never come to pass unless the first is lined with silverware.
In such circumstances, the Italian will be neither inclined nor capable of showing Arsene Wenger’s deference to youth development. He will stick to the grizzled veterans who won the Champions League last season, bolstered by exotic and expensive summer recruits.
In the meantime, Piazon will rightly keep fond memories of last night’s man of the match cameo at Yankee Stadium. He will need them if, as expected, he gains few more to sustain him over the coming months.Follow Liam Twomey on