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Brazilian National Team Player Faces Long Ban for Betting

Paquetá caught on a small amount compared to his salary.

Lucas Paquetá is a footballer who stands out in the Premier League. It seemed surprising that a critical player for the Brazilian national team was not yet in a top club. Last summer, he was extremely close to moving to Manchester City. At that time, West Ham's head coach, David Moyes, publicly acknowledged that the club received an offer from the English champions. According to Fabrizio Romano, City offered £70 million for the midfielder, but West Ham wanted more, so negotiations continued. However, in mid-August, talks abruptly halted. It became known that Paquetá was under investigation, suspected of deliberately receiving yellow cards when his associates placed bets on it.

In the 2023/2024 season, Paquetá performed at a decent level, remaining a stable starting player. In one Premier League match, he provided three assists (against Wolverhampton). The transfer to the City was being discussed again. The Guardian insisted that the transfer would take place if the investigation concluded. The deal was expected to be worth £85 million (the buyout clause in his contract), and the player had already reached an agreement. However, a few days after the championship ended, it became clear that the investigation was only gaining momentum.

On May 23, the FA's website released official charges against Paquetá:

"It is alleged that he directly attempted to influence the course, behavior, or any other aspect or event in these matches, intentionally trying to receive a card from the referee with the improper purpose of influencing the betting market so that one or more people could profit from the bets."

The player's reaction was immediate. He made a statement on his social media.

West Ham midfielder Lucas Paquetá:

"I was shocked and upset when I learned that the FA decided to charge me. For nine months, I have cooperated at every stage of their investigation and provided all the information I could. I completely deny the charges and will fight to my last breath to clear my name. Due to the ongoing process, I will not comment further."

How did Paquetá get caught?

Initially, attention was drawn to the yellow card Paquetá received in the West Ham vs. Aston Villa match on March 12, 2023. The warning in the 70th minute was the only one in that game.

According to Globo, the bets were placed in the Brazilian town of Duque de Caxias, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro near Paquetá Island, where the midfielder grew up (his nickname comes from the name of his home island). Moreover, the money was bet on Betway, a sponsor of West Ham, which is not very popular in Brazil. The bet attracted attention not because of the amount but due to the low popularity of the company and the unusual choice of event (a yellow card, not the result).

The initial analysis showed that several new accounts were created at Betway that day, and users immediately placed the maximum allowed amount. All these accounts made a paired bet: on Paquetá's yellow card against Aston Villa and another Brazilian's yellow card (Betis striker Luiz Henrique in the match against Villarreal on the same day). Henrique entered the game in the 58th minute and was also cautioned in the second half.

Later, it was revealed that suspicions about Paquetá were based on four yellow cards he received in matches against Leicester, Villa, Leeds, and Bournemouth. It was reported that around 60 people placed bets. The amounts were relatively small, ranging from £7 to £400. The total winnings amounted to about £100,000, which the West Ham midfielder earns in a few days. According to Capology, the Brazilian receives £150,000 a week.

What will happen to the player and the club now?

West Ham did not distance themselves from Paquetá and publicly supported him. According to Transfermarkt, the Brazilian is the club's most valuable player, valued at €65 million. However, his value could soon become zero.

According to The Sun, the FA protocol recommends a lifetime ban for the midfielder if his guilt is proven. However, there are doubts about this. No one in England has been punished for such offenses for over 10 years. Stratford defender Kynan Isaac received a 10-year ban after intentionally getting a yellow card in an FA Cup match in 2021. Isaac refused to cooperate with the investigation. There are grounds to believe Paquetá will receive a shorter ban. But if he is banned for 10 years, it would effectively end the player's career, who will turn 27 this summer.

It is inappropriate to compare this case with Ivan Toney's, as Toney did not bet on events he directly influenced. The Brentford striker did not affect the game for betting benefits (or it was not proven). The case with Sandro Tonali is also different. Tonali was already suspended based on the Italian prosecutor's investigation when the FA started its investigation. Moreover, more importantly, the Newcastle midfielder confessed and underwent treatment for gambling addiction. Paquetá, on the other hand, categorically denies any wrongdoing and is preparing for the Copa America. The previous Brazilian national team coach, Fernando Diniz, omitted Paquetá due to the investigation. However, Dorival Junior started him in recent matches, possibly because the new coach personally knows Paquetá from their time at Flamengo.

According to The Guardian, the Paquetá scandal will affect West Ham's transfers in the upcoming transfer window. It was reported that new coach Julen Lopetegui's priorities were Wolverhampton defender Max Kilman, Atalanta winger Ademola Lookman, and Stuttgart striker Serhou Guirassy. Their arrivals at West Ham are now in question, as is Paquetá's return to the team.

Published by Patrick Jane