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From Real Madrid wonderkid to unemployed – the sad decline of Lucas Silva

6:00 PM EDT 9/9/19
Lucas Silva Real Madrid
The Brazilian midfielder arrived in Spain with the world at his feet, but leaves without a club and his career at a crossroads

“This is a dream come true.”

Call it a cliche, but those were the honest words of a wonderstruck Lucas Silva in 2015 when he did what millions fantasise about – signed a contract with Real Madrid.

The Brazilian had been turning heads with Cruzeiro in his homeland and earned his move to Europe on the back of being voted Serie A's best defensive midfielder.

Arriving at the Santiago Bernabeu, starry-eyed and hopeful, Silva declared he was ready to shine in Spain

“I am really happy and motivated. I've come to Real Madrid to learn and above all else to help,” Silva said at his unveiling. 

“I feel good and am ready to honour this shirt, which belongs to the best club in the world. I've liked Real Madrid ever since I was a child. I'm really happy to be in the city and I'm certain that I will live very well here.”

Making his debut just a month after signing in a 2-0 win against Deportivo La Coruna, things were going to script for Silva, with Real adding their second goal just minutes after he was brought on. 

Days later, he played the full 90 minutes in a Champions League Round of 16 clash with Schalke, where his side once again claimed a 2-0 victory. 

Unable to cement his place in Real's side, however, Silva was sent to Marseille on loan the following season, where his career faced the first of what would be successive set-backs. 

While his time in France started with some promise, the Brazilian ultimately failed to hold down a starting spot and found himself frozen out of the side completely when he refused to accept a January move to Anderlechtmuch to Marseille's reported displeasure

Returning to Madrid at the end of the season and even more desperate for game time, Silva lined up a move to Portuguese giants Sporting, only for the midfielder to once again be denied by forces beyond his control. 

Upon having a medical with Sporting, the club detected an irregular heartbeat which ended any hope of a transfer and left Silva in footballing limbo.

Forced to clarify that he did intend to play on and that the irregular heartbeat was a one off, Silva was left desperately searching for the next step in his quickly stalling career and ultimately settled on a move back to Cruzeiro on loan. 

Two solid, if unspectacular, seasons in Brazil followed, with the now 26-year-old returning to Spain this summer with a year to run on his original Real contract and still hopeful his dream could continue.

“The truth is that I have a team, and it's Real Madrid,” Silva told Marca in August. “I'm living in a difficult moment because it's the last year of my contract. Real Madrid is a club where there are always high-level players, many of the best in the world. 

“I had difficulties at the start, perhaps because I was very young, and I didn't have a regular place in the team. I needed to adapt better. Today I'm much more prepared. I played few games in Madrid but, when I did play, I feel I did well. When I started, I didn't think I did anything wrong. 

“I just want to play. Right now, it's hard to say where. Spain is one of the possibilities and a league in which I feel ready to play in now. I have more experience and maturity than before, I was able to play at a great level in recent years and I believe today I have the ability to play for any team in the world. 

“My intention is to stay in Europe.”

Despite his best intentions, Silva's time with Real was severed in early September with both club and player agreeing to cut their losses and part ways. 

Having arrived in Spain with high hopes and plenty of talent, the midfielder now leaves without a club but still determined to make a name for himself. 

“I wish I’d had more opportunities in Madrid, but it just wasn’t possible. It was still a great experience. I learned a lot and with only one year left on my contract, we both decided it was better for everyone to just terminate the deal early,” Silva told Tuttomercatoweb.

“I was considered the best young midfielder in Brazil when I arrived, so naturally I expected it to go differently with Madrid, but I regret nothing and want to think only of the next opportunity.

“I want to play in Europe, that is my objective, especially if I can get back into the Brazil squad that way. Serie A would be perfectly suited to my characteristics and that’d represent a very important move.

“I was close to Genoa and we were in direct contact, but at the end of the day it wasn’t finalised due to some details.”

Nearly five years since signing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, Lucas Silva now finds himself without one at what should be the peak of his career. 

While football can often be the stuff of dreams, Silva's tale is a reminder that the beautiful game doesn't always deliver a happy ending.