Dom Howson column: Joao’s the time for Owls to keep hold of their crown jewels

Lucas Joao

Lucas Joao

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In football, timing is everything.

Had Sheffield Wednesday failed to act quickly in the transfer market over the summer, Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal is convinced they would have missed out on capturing Lucas Joao. He believes Joao would have eventually been snapped up by one of the Portuguese giants: Porto, Benfica or Sporting Lisbon.

Wednesday didn’t hang around, nipping in to complete the deal.

On the evidence of what we have seen in three and a half months of football, the Championship club pulled off a blinder.

It can be quite risky bringing in foreign talent as there is no guarantee of a smooth transition. Some adjust to their new surroundings faster than others. Some just don’t settle full stop.

It is a big step moving to a new country, leaving your family and friends behind. Footballers also have to bridge the language barrier in adapting to a new culture. It takes big cojones and a strong mentality to get out of your comfort zone.

Joao plucked up the courage to swap Wednesday for Nacional and his risk is paying off.

I will never forget Joao’s first start. Yes, it was against inferior opposition in League Two Mansfield Town but Joao stood out throughout with his pace, power and athleticism. The striker was given a standing ovation when brought off in the closing stages. You knew then Wednesday had unearthed a gem.

Joao is one of the hottest properties outside the Premier League, prompting ex-Owls defender Andy Hinchliffe, now a Sky Sports pundit, to recently write: “Lucas has got everything you need to be successful, not just in the Championship but as a striker in the modern game.

“He’s got pace, he’s got strength, he can hold the ball up, he can score goals, he’s good in the air and on the floor.”

Carvalhal has cleverly managed Joao, resisting the temptation to play him every match. The 22-year-old has actually made more substitute appearances (10) than starts this season.

Carvalhal insists Joao is still a “boy”, claiming he has a lot to learn and and is keen to avoid bulding expectations too high. It is clear Carvalhal doesn’t want to talk Joao up too much or risk alerting the big clubs.

The truth is Joao, with his dynamic, direct style of play, has already grabbed the attention of Premier League teams. Everton have been linked with a January move for him and there was a representative for Crystal Palace at last week’s fixture. That individual would have left Hillsborough very impressed with what he had seen.

Carvalhal has stated it would take a significant offer to prize one of their top performers away from South Yorkshire. When the big clubs come calling in January, it is vital the Owls hang on to their crown jewels if they are to mount a serious promotion tilt.

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