Lucas Ocampos 18 Midfielder AS Monaco
Well now, here’s a surprise.
We spend a lot of time in these profiles lamenting players who are about to make moves they’re not ready for, have already gone for far too much of a transfer fee, or are flirting outrageously with the biggest clubs in world football at a time when they should be concentrating on developing their talents and understanding the game. Lucas Ocampos has already made a move for a reasonably large transfer fee, but in his case it might just be the most sensible footballing decision he’ll ever make.
Now before we get letters to the editor you can argue that a reported €16m is a big fee for a player with only one professional season under his belt, and we’re absolutely certain that his wages are significantly more than most 18-year olds are enjoying whatever their chosen profession, but that doesn’t tell the full story.
You see while some join the marquee club far too early and whither in the spotlight, Ocampos has chosen to take the less travelled route to Ligue 2 in France with AS Monaco.
While his new club do represent one of the grandest names in French football and the biggest transfer budget of any second tier club in the world, they also represent time. He will get time to adjust to European football without being thrown into the Budesliga, Premier League, Serie A or La Liga hothouse too soon. He can adjust personally to moving from his home country at a tender age, he can learn about the different mentality required in a new league, and hopefully he can avoid the one-season wonder syndrome some are prone to and fulfill his potential.
He did have potential offers from Chelsea, Liverpool, both Milans, Juventus and Roma in Italy, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, as well as Manchester City lurking in the wings having watched him repeatedly last season. It may on the surface seem a strange decision to make and it was certainly a huge shock when he signed, but the more we think about it the more we like what he’s doing.
So far in interviews he has come across as a well-adjusted and intelligent individual not likely to be swept up in the hype. As part of River’s return to the top tier last year he was somewhat of a revelation, but never once did it seem to go to his head. His then coach Matías Almeyda spoke in several interviews of how impressed he was the player’s work ethic and versatility.
He can play anywhere across a front three and that’s a particularly handy trait to have picked up the way the modern game’s love affair with the system is continuing at pace. Tall, strong and quick he has the natural template to cause defender’s problems, couple with that no small amount of skill and you have quite a prospect.
He cites Cristiano Ronaldo as a hero and influence and that’s quite an obvious comparison in some respects. He says that he has always tried to copy CR7’s style and he shares a head up, straight-backed gait and step-over love affair with the Portuguese superstar. He loves taking a man on and has more than just pace to deploy, although that being said he does love the freedom of a wing to run in to. He’s a full-back’s nightmare – a player who plays high up the pitch forcing them back, has pace and a full arsenal of tricks with the ball, can go inside or out and loves a goal. If he settles well the French second division won’t know what hit it.
So far life at Monaco has been cameos and substitute appearances with brief flashes of what’s to come. Nobody’s worried yet and his manager has deflected all talk of disappointment by pointing out he’s blooding him slowly. The physicality of the second tier and the siege mentality playing the league’s biggest scalp has restricted his freedom when given the chance but there’s no vultures circling overhead or headlines coming complaining about anything anytime soon. Speaking to Andrew Gibney of French Football Weekly, he feels it might not be until he’s in Ligue 1 with better pitches that they’ll see the best of him.
Internationally he is of course one of a raft of attacking talent that Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella can pick from. He has represented his country at youth level well and a call to the full squad will come in time. He has a lot of very talented players to get through if he is to make the full side on a regular basis but he is very well thought of and has plenty of time on his side.
We’re excited about Ocampos, not just for his talent but also his attitude. He’s ignored the brighter lights to take an opportunity that affords him greater time and room to grow. This list is already littered with players who have snatched at an opportunity too quickly – Luc Castaignos, Juan Iturbe etc – but here is a man who you feel has taken a sure thing over an ego-driven risk.
Claudio Ranieri’s Monaco have got quite a player on their hands here in a league that admittedly the pressure’s on to win. Give him time and we think he could be an excellent footballer, Monaco fans enjoy him while you can.
“The Monaco move was a surprise, but it could be a masterstroke. A year of adapting to European football in the second tier should set him up nicely for a shot at the top flight, and he will continue developing nicely.”– Ed Malyon (The Mirror, The Guardian)
C A fabulous first full season, big potential and a sensible move, give him time and he could be exciting