Lucas Esteves loan extension analysis: ‘I intend to stay’

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Last Friday, Colorado Rapids confirmed they had extended left-back Lucas Esteves on loan. He will be with the club until the end of the 2022 MLS season. As first reported by Yahoo, there is believed to be a loan fee of $200,000. The MLS team retains the option of buying Esteves from Palmeiras. It is thought to be $1 million with a 50% sell clause. It’s something both sides wanted. This deal in particular gives the club the financial flexibility they might need to make this move permanent.

Lucas Esteves loan extension analysis: Settling in, going long term for financial flexibility

Esteves hasn’t dwelt on his future in recent weeks but it was hard to avoid. “I believe that if I am here it is because I have pleased [the club]. I am very happy here. I intend to stay. The beginning was difficult, but now I’ve adapted. I like being part of the team,” he told Last Word through a club translator ahead of the announced loan extension.

In the field:

The 22-year-old was exactly what the Rapids needed with the departure of Sam Vines last summer. It corresponds to all the characteristics of the Return of the vines position, although the results have been mixed compared to its predecessor. He has two goals and three assists in 1,855 minutes in MLS, roughly tied with Vines in goals-per-minute contributions. He was expelled twice, although one of them was appealed by the Disciplinary Committee. He’s a little feisty, which Vines never was. Looking at his g+ stats, his possession stats have been similar, but he cuts less inside midfield. His defensive numbers are down from last year, but that could be due to Fraser’s tactical form more than anything else. Esteves has been more dynamic in the space than Vines. It was also inconsistent.

All this in the context of the player arriving in a new league mid-season, in a new country and not speaking the language. The fact that the club has a comparable player who has started to contribute is a credit to the recruitment team, the player and the coach. He was a good signing and he hasn’t even reached his potential yet. The second half of 2022 should be his best yet.

Off the pitch:

Fellow Brazilian Andre Shinyashiki, now with Charlotte FC, helped Esteves adapt on and off the pitch. He provided translation between English and Portuguese when needed. Esteves even found comfort food at Fogo’s chao.

“I’m enjoying the city, it’s a beautiful city. I adapt as much as possible; my English is much better than when I arrived and I am improving every day with the help of the lessons”, he said, adding “the rest of the group, the coaches and the technical staff try to communicate with me in the best way to have a good relationship and it has been very good for me.

Esteves has since paid him off, helping winter-sign Max Alves the same way Shinyashiki helped him. It’s one of the most welcoming and close-knit locker rooms in the league. Esteves works hard. He is selfless and to stick on for his teammates. He loves the city and playing for Robin Fraser. In this he became a Burgundy Boy.

Financial implications:

The $200,000 is a minor expense, but encouraging (along with Max and Gustavo Vallecilla’s acquisitions) given the property’s history. This gives the club another six months to see if Esteves can reach another level and be absolutely worth the million dollar investment. They can also further assess its potential. Being Brazilian, it would have a higher commercial value abroad. It’s a short-term sporting decision and a big long-term financial decision.

It also gives the coaching staff time to further assess and provide opportunities for Anthony Markanich. Does Esteves leave in the second half of the season as Colorado advances to the playoffs? Does this convince the Front Office that it will work more than $5 million a day? Does Markanich prove he’s an MLS starter and will be cheaper and as good as Esteves in the long run?

I also have to wonder with the club spending $1m on Max out of pocket, potentially $1.3m on Vallecilla’s total assets and potentially $1.4m on Gyasi Zardes, if they don’t were simply not able and ready to deplete the war chest any further. The transfer fee for Esteves would technically count for 2023 financially. Further improvement in the team and proof of the long-term vision could convince KSE to lose another million in the team. Pádraig Smith may not have been ready or comfortable asking Mother Can I? right now. If all goes well, the timing should be perfect in December.

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