Lucas Paqueta pays tribute to David Moyes as West Ham star prepares for Brazil return

Lucas Paqueta pays tribute to David Moyes as West Ham star prepares for Brazil return

Lucas Paqueta has spoken of his joy at returning to the Brazilian national side and paid tribute to David Moyes’s “special” support as he prepares to face England at Wembley this weekend.

Paqueta has not played for Brazil since June, having been dropped when news of an FA investigation into potential gambling breaches emerged last year, but has been recalled by new head coach Dorival Junior ahead of Saturday’s friendly.

The FA probe, which relates to suspicious betting patterns around a series of yellow cards shown to the midfielder in West Ham matches, remains ongoing, with both Paqueta and his club still in the dark over when it will reach a conclusion.

However, where Brazil initially chose to leave Paqueta out of their set-up as the investigation began, Moyes has shown consistent faith in his record signing, continuing to pick him throughout the saga.

"My relationship with David Moyes is very good,” Paqueta said. “It is a healthy relationship. We talked about this. He wanted me on the team because of what I did last season.

“Without a shadow of doubt, the support he gave me to leave all this behind, it was essential.

“He was special for me and his support was important for me. He said he wanted me playing in the team - that confidence was very important for me.”

Paqueta declined to comment on the investigation while speaking at Brazil’s training base in St. Albans on Wednesday, other than to confirm he is co-operating fully. It is understood he denies any wrongdoing.

The controversy has already had significant consequences for the former Lyon star, who saw a proposed move to Manchester City collapse during last summer’s transfer window, but neither that disappointment nor the investigation more generally have knocked him off his stride during a superb campaign for West Ham.

“Any criticism that I get, I must not pay too much attention,” he said. “I must step aside and train hard and take care of myself. When I am on the field, I forget everything and I just think about playing football and forget what happened.

“At the beginning of my career, it was harder. When I was younger. Now I have more experience about issues outside of the football field. I can demonstrate better what I take from football to my family and my friends and I only think about what happens on the pitch.”

Paqueta joined West Ham from Lyon in a £51million deal in the summer of 2022 but was initially slow to adapt to English football.

After impressing for Brazil at last season’s winter World Cup in Qatar, however, he returned to play a key role in the Hammers’s Europa Conference League success and this term has taken his form to new heights, with seven goals and six assists across all competitions in potent combination with Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudus. Most telling of his importance to the Hammers is the fact they have failed to win a single one of the seven league matches the 26-year-old has missed all season.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

“For anyone to start playing in the Premier League it’s complicated,” Paqueta explained. “It’s hard. It’s a very special competition.

“West Ham helped me a lot to get used to the Premier League standards. I think this season I have played better than before and my performances are better than last season and with the help of my team-mates and the coaches, I have shown my best on the field.”

Brazil have also struggled badly in Paqueta’s absence, losing their last three matches on the bounce, against Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay in World Cup qualifying.

Following the arrival of Dorival, who managed Paqueta during his time at Brazilian side Flamengo, and injury-hit Selecao are looking to use this weekend’s clash with England as the launchpad for a new era as they build towards the summer’s Copa America in the USA.

“I’m very happy to be back,” Paqueta said. “Being in the national team has always been my dream, so when I return I feel even more privileged. I’ve done well done in my club and I've been playing in such fun teams. I try not to let outside analysis get in the way of me on the field. So, I'm happy, I'm doing it at my job and I hope to continue.”

Despite Brazil’s poor form, Paqueta is under no illusions about the level of expectation as he prepares to grace Wembley for the first time.

“I think the Brazilian team will always be favourites, because of the history we have, the players we have,” he added. “I think it's going to be a great game because there are two great teams and that respect has to be there, but we're going to try to do our best for Brazil.”