Last season he saved Deportivo La Coruña from regulation, now Lucas Pérez is scoring goals for fun. But Alexandra Jonson argues the 27-year-old’s road to hero status at Estadio Riazor has been a long one.
Barcelona were 2-0 up, heading towards what looked like yet another comfortable win at Camp Nou. Then, Lucas Pérez turned in the box, firing off a shot. A true golazo. Depor went on to score again and the game ended 2-2. It was May 2015, the last game of the season, and that result meant Deportivo La Coruña had secured their La Liga spot for another year.
The joy had no boundaries, there was hugging, Cava, and crying. Lots of it. For Lucas it was most likely the best day of his life.
Six months later, Depor returned to Barcelona. For the second time in his footballing career Lucas entered the Camp Nou.
Once again, Barcelona were heading towards a comfortable 2-0 win. Once again, Lucas turned and the Galician boy put the ball in the net. Ten minutes later, with only four left on the clock, he would serve Álex Bergantiños for the equaliser. Depor became the first team this season to grab a point at Camp Nou. In fact, it was the first time since Depor visited the ground last season that Barca had lost La Liga points at home.
The goal against Barca this Saturday was Lucas’s sixth in six consecutive games. In total he has directly contributed to 13 of Depor’s goals in 2014/15, scoring 11 and adding two assists. Not since the Dutchman Roy Makaay, who 12 years ago, won the Pichichi with 29 goals, has the Galician club had a player scoring with such regularity.
In fact, in the last 30 years, only five other Spanish players have scored as many goals this early into a La Liga season. Only Neymar, Luis Suarez and Imanol Agirretxe are above the Depor ace in the Spanish Pichichi table; and unsurprisingly, there are calls to get Lucas to the national team.
That’s some achievement for a boy who left his family at 16 because he wasn’t good enough to play for his hometown club.
Lucas’s journey has been anything but easy. As a kid he went to try out for Deportivo La Coruña but without any luck. Instead the road began at Deportivo Alavés’ youth teams, passing through the Atletico Madrid C team and the Rayo Vallecano B team. Lucas then experienced hell in Ukraine playing for Karpaty Lviv and Dynamo Kyiv. His fortune changed in Greece at PAOK and last season his dreams came true when Deportivo took him on loan. He scored on his debut, kissing the club badge while running towards the fans. “Some people don’t understand it but I’m kissing my city,” Lucas explained to El País newspaper afterwards.
This summer Depor signed him permanently for €1.5million. It was a bargain. Not only in respect of his goals but also his commitment.
When playing Barcelona for survival last season, Lucas got injured and was taken off on a stretcher but decided to re-enter the game to help his team. In the end the pain got too intense and he had to leave the pitch once more. He would keep fighting to get back on the field, spending the last minutes jumping and screaming from the sidelines.
Last month, when Celta de Vigo came to A Coruña for what locals call the “most important game in the world”, the Galician derby, Lucas was running against the clock. An injury put him in risk of missing the game. Or so the journalists thought. “They would have to cut off both my legs and both my arms for me to miss the derby. I would have to be crawling, believe me,” Lucas told La Voz de Galicia newspaper. He not only ended up playing in the derby, but netting the winner.
If goals and commitment are what a club desire from a player, then Deportivo La Coruña certainly got it. Once a player they didn’t want, Lucas, is now a player neither Depor nor the club’s supporters will ever want to see leave.
The next step is the national team, and I sure hope Vicente del Bosque is ready to give Lucas that chance.
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Follow Alexandra at @Alexandrajonson