Comment: Why selling Lucas Joao to Reading is a good bit of business for Sheffield Wednesday
Three permanent managers tried and failed to find the key to consistently unlock Lucas Joao's undoubted potential at Hillsborough.
He is a talented but hugely frustrating footballer.
When Joao is good, he is very good. Unplayable, in fact.
What Joao has is the ability to leave opposition defences for dead with his pace, power and directness.
Who can forget his last minute winner at Brentford? ‘Carlos had a dream,’ bellowed out Wednesday’s jubilant away following.
I vividly recall the way Joao played up front on his own when Wednesday memorably thumped Arsenal in the League Cup nearly four years ago. Under the lights at Hillsborough, Joao bullied the Gunners defence, ripping Per Mertesacker, a World Cup winner, to shreds. He was sensational and looked an absolute world-beater.
Joao's eye-catching start to life in England culminated in him being drafted into the Portugal senior squad. Two full caps duly followed.
The world was at Joao's feet.
But Joao's form dipped and his career went backwards. He struggled to hold down a regular starting berth and was largely used as a substitute in the second half of the 2015/16 campaign when the Owls reached the play-off final.
Carlos Carvalhal, who signed Joao from Portuguese Primeira Liga side Nacional, claimed the centre-forward started to believe his own hype.
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"He is a boy and lives a little in the clouds," said Carvalhal in a revealing post-match interview after Joao ended a three-month goal drought in a 4-1 home victory over Brentford.
Joao was 20 when he moved to Hillsborough so understandably was not the finished article. He looked a little raw around the edges.
But Carvalhal felt it took Joao a long time to grow up and mature and that he wasted six months of his career through a lack of focus.
Carvalhal said: “He received a lesson."
Despite having everything in his locker to be a to be a top performer at this level, Joao has fared far better as an impact substitute than a starter. Carvalhal, Jos Luhukay and Steve Bruce all gave Joao ample opportunities to make himself undroppable and a permanent fixture in the starting XI but Joao did not step up to the plate.His languid style has also rubbed Wednesdayites up the wrong way over the years, with many fans accusing him of being lazy. There have certainly been times where his work rate off the ball has left a lot to be desired. Some of the stick aimed at Joao has been justified, some unfair.Yet for all his flaws, Joao certainly knows where the net is. He scored 10 goals last season - his best return in an Owls shirt - to spare their blushes on multiple occasions. Although Joao's performances lacked consistency, he gave the team something different with his speed and unpredictability in attack.But there is only so long clubs can wait for players to fulfil their potential. Joao, who turns 26 next month, still has too many holes in his game, hence why he is not strutting his stuff in the Premier League.So selling Joao to Reading for an initial fee of £5m, which could rise to as much as £7m with add-ons, represents a good piece of business for Wednesday. It is the Owls' club-record sale and they have inserted a 20 per cent sell-on clause as part of the deal.
It is no secret that trimming their top-heavy forward line has been near the top of the Owls' priority list this summer. Getting Joao off the books eases their striker issues and Profitability and Sustainability worries.
Joao's departure may also potentially free up some funds for Wednesday to spend on bringing in some much-needed reinforcements before Thursday's transfer deadline. A new centre-half and winger would definitely not go amiss.
It appears Joao's last act as an Owl was to score against the club he is on the brink of joining. The first touch, turn and finish from Joao oozed class. Very few other players in Wednesday’s squad could have scored that goal.
A move to Reading looks a strange one on the face of things for Joao in terms of career progression. It is going to be a long, hard season for the Royals on the evidence of Saturday's encounter at the Madejski Stadium. Realistically, the Owls have a far better chance of pushing for promotion.
But it is important to recognise that Joao was a good servant for Wednesday. He produced some magical moments and entertained us all. Good luck to him on the next part of his footballing odyssey.