The forgotten £18m forward now making a splash in Japan
By Cam Melling
Six goals in return for an £18 million transfer fee, doesn’t seem like a success. Well it might not have been for the man who paid the fee but ask anyone currently in Japan’s capital city, and they would disagree. Thirty-four year old forward Lucas Severino smashed Stade Rennes record transfer fee in 2000 but he is now a fan’s favourite for J League 1 club, FC Tokyo.
It’s the summer of 2000 and Rennes owner and 67th richest man in the world, François Pinault wanted to spend big and he certainly achieved this.
The Sydney Olympics were approaching and one man, who had been selected to represent Brazil in games, had captured his attention.
Lucas Severino was just beginning to make a name for himself at Brazilian club Atlético Paranaense. Eleven goals in twenty-eight matches made the 20 year old hot property in South America. Rennes decided to gamble on striker and shelled out a club record €21 million.
Seventy-two matches, six goals and two unsuccessful loan spells later, the Ligue 1 club let the Brazilian go on a free transfer to FC Tokyo, just four years after his big money move. The beginning of the end for Pinault’s biggest ever flop?
Certainly not for fans of FC Tokyo. The striker went on to bang in eighteen goals in his first season in the Far East, recording his best ever goal scoring season. And this was no fluke. The South American then fired another 81 goals in his next six seasons in Japan, which included a move to one of J League’s most successful sides in Gamba Osaka.
Lucas has since returned to FC Tokyo, which is where he remains now. While other teammates from the Sydney 2000 squad have become household names, Ronaldinho and Lucio, the J League forward is an all but forgotten man in the world of European football.
In a 2010 interview with the magazine, Montly Rennes, the striker reflected on his move to France and that in fact he was to sign for Marseille at first but Rennes then offered double. He also said “You do not have the right to play badly in a club, when you are bought at a high price”.
It seems like so many other ‘potential superstars’, he was weighed down by his price tag and could not prove his worth until the pressure was reduced. Of course, Lucas will still feel the anxiety of his fans to succeed and players should receive more credit than they do in making the move for Asia.
Many a person can be written off for moving to a less prestigious out-of-Europe league but it can be where a player can regain their confidence and enjoy what they do best, without criticism for failing to score. This is no truer than it is for Lucas. As he showed in 2011, when he returned to former club Atlético Paranaense and scored seven goals in twenty matches.
The J League experience had clearly benefitted the striker. And it has done for many others.