Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Lucas Paqueta has paid tribute to the club's outgoing sporting director Juninho, who he credits for 'changing his life.'
Juninho announced in November that he was leaving his post at the end of the season, but last month, the Brazilian told reporters that he was bringing his exit forward, so that the club would have more time to find the right replacement for him.
"It's better that I leave in January so the club can already start preparing for the future and I also feel the need to stop," said the 46-year-old.
Juninho was instrumental in securing the signature of Lucas Paqueta from Italian giants AC Milan in September 2020 and the 24-year-old Brazil international has paid back the trust shown in him with a string of fine performances despite a difficult 18-months for Les Gones who have missed out on Champions League football during that time.
"Juninho is a person who changed my life," said Paqueta who is enjoying his best run of form for Lyon this season, boasting nine goals and four assists in all competitions. "He changed my life not just by recruiting me, but for the trust he placed in me when I arrived and for the support he gave my family.
"His departure as sporting director will be hard for us, but that's his decision, he had his reasons. I will always support him, I know he will do the same with me and the other players. It's going to be hard but we must stay focused on our goal and continue to work."
Scorer of Lyon's opener against PSG on Sunday night, Paqueta is in no doubt as to the huge void Juninho will leave upon his departure and believes that finding a like for like replacement will be difficult due to his history at Lyon both as a player and sporting director.
"I don't think anyone will be able to achieve what Juninho has achieved here. The love of the fans towards him and his overall connection with the club is incredible. On a personal level, I want to write my own history with Lyon and I will do everything to win titles, to engrave my name in the history of this club. I hope to be able to achieve at least 10% of what he did."
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