The AGONAsport Profile: Luciano da Rocha Neves
AGONAsport’s George Tsitsonis delves into the career of Luciano da Rocha Neves, and gives the run-down of Panathinaikos’ newest signing and his potential impact at the Leoforos.
Luciano da Rocha Neves has been targeted by Marinos Ouzounidis as the man tasked with bringing in the goals for Panathinaikos this season. Luciano has signed a loan deal until January, after which a permanent deal to the Greek side will be completed until 2020.
Luciano began his professional career at the age of 19 for Atletico Goianiense. He spent a season there before moving to Avai. Corinthians had been monitoring the youngster’s progress and decided to purchase the player in 2014. The next year was the best of Luciano’s career as he started his stint with Corinthians in fine form and had worked his way up to the Brazil Olympic side which competed in the 2015 Pan American Games. There, Luciano caught the eye with his five goals, which were good enough to have him finish as the tournament’s top scorer.
Just as his stock was rising, Luciano suffered a serious knee injury in August 2015. The injury saw him need seven months of rehabilitation before he was able to return to the pitch. His initial goals in the 2015 Serie A season saw him play a role in Corinthians winning the title that year.
After his return from injury, Luciano came back for Corinthians, however his 2016 campaign saw him appear to be a step off the pace. The long layoff exacted its toll and his goal return was poor with just one tally in 24 appearances in all competitions.
A change of scenery seemed to be on the cards and Spanish side Leganes came calling last summer. Luciano moved to the club on a year-long loan deal amidst some decent fanfare. But, after impressing in the early stages including a goal on his debut, Luciano found it tough going for the small La Liga club based in the outskirts of Madrid. In all, Luciano made 25 appearances, 11 starts and 14 as a substitute chipping in with four goals and two assists. It was by no means a disastrous campaign, though it was also less than Leganes had expected from the Brazilian.
With Marcus Berg leaving Panathinaikos, the club realized the need to fill the massive hole left in attack by the Swede’s departure. Luciano has been tabbed as the man to replace him.
Luciano’s left foot is a real weapon, he scores exclusively with his left, but he possesses superb accuracy and power with it. Given proper service he has proven he can score goals and he excels as a penalty box poacher. He is very effective playing off of a target forward like Olympiacos’ new signing Emanuel Emenike, though like the Nigerian he has operated as the lone central striker on many occasions. Luciano is versatile in that he can float around in the different attacking positions and has enough skill to contribute to a team’s link-up and combination play.
This is another striker brought in by a top Greek club that doesn’t have a real history of prolific scoring. The most goals Luciano has managed in one season is 13 and it took him 47 games to score those back in 2014 while playing for Corinthians. Perhaps an explosion of offense will come now that he has come to a weaker league than say La Liga where he played last season, however at this point it seems a real stretch that Luciano would step in and immediately replace the goals lost with Berg’s departure.
This is a player who is awaiting his big breakout moment in European football. From his comments to the media, there is a genuine feeling that this is a hungry individual ready to take hold of his chance in Greece. This move has the feeling of a real crossroads in the career of Luciano. Another underwhelming stint will see his value drop to the point where another transfer to a bigger league is extremely unlikely. If he can do well in Greece, at 24 he is still at an age where he could impress and either find some stability in one country for a few seasons or do enough to earn a bigger move as he heads into his prime in a few years.
THE BIG QUESTION
After such a horrific knee injury, there is always a question of whether a player will ever be the same. The jury is still out with regard to Luciano’s recovery. He is obviously back to playing professional football, but five goals in his last two seasons of football (51 matches) suggests that he has found it difficult to have the same goalscoring impact since his injury. Whether that strike rate changes for the better with the Prasini remains to be seen, but certainly supporters will be a little anxious as to the possibility that Luciano’s best days were before his knee injury.
Luciano’s progress a few years back looked to be extremely positive with even a chance for a Brazil call-up looking a possibility. A terrible knee injury certainly interrupted the development and career progression of a talented youngster.
Two barren seasons in front of goal has cast questions over his ability. Panathinaikos are gambling here without a doubt. It’s a gamble that could well pay off though if Luciano can rediscover his scoring touch. Perhaps the responsibility put on his shoulders will be the catalyst for a return to the player he once was or was destined to be, one who was coined ‘Luciano Ronaldo’ at one stage with Corinthians.
Panathinaikos’ early matches could be key. If Luciano can score a few and get off the mark then perhaps the missing confidence since that injury will return and Panathinaikos will have pulled off a coup with his signing. Otherwise, fans could well miss Berg more than they could have ever thought possible.