Home Editor Picks Lucas Paqueta betting charge: How the case was built as West Ham star could face 10-YEAR ban from football, including fourth booking when he was already being investigated

Lucas Paqueta betting charge: How the case was built as West Ham star could face 10-YEAR ban from football, including fourth booking when he was already being investigated

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Lucas Paqueta betting charge: How the case was built as West Ham star could face 10-YEAR ban from football, including fourth booking when he was already being investigated

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Beautiful footballer, Lucas Paqueta, full of flair and playground panache. West Ham’s most mesmeric man to watch since Dimitri Payet. Makes mugs of those who try to take the ball from him but loves a card, as they say on the terraces.

Now, Paqueta finds himself associated with the ugly side of football. He stands accused of deliberately picking up yellow cards in four Premier League games for the perverse reason of making sure bets were won against Leicester, Aston Villa, Leeds and Bournemouth.

Now, West Ham can only wonder if his career will be as good as over if he is found guilty of spot-fixing. It is a miserable situation for the playmaker who played the ball into Jarrod Bowen to win the Europa Conference League and a headache for Julen Lopetegui, who was announced as his new manager on Thursday.

It took the FA nine months to collate the evidence that made them confident enough to commit to a charge, with Thursday’s announcement taking us back to August 18, 2023.

It was an ordinary day until a tip from a friend landed on WhatsApp, suggesting we should look closer at why Paqueta’s £85million move to Manchester City had suddenly collapsed due to reasons unknown.

Lucas Paqueta has been charged for breaking betting rules and could face a 10-year ban

Lucas Paqueta has been charged for breaking betting rules and could face a 10-year ban

Paqueta came under scrutiny for four bookings in particular, the first of which is above

Paqueta came under scrutiny for four bookings in particular, the first of which is above

A tackle on John McGinn was also one that triggered alarms with the integrity Europe

A tackle on John McGinn was also one that triggered alarms with the integrity Europe

‘I’m hearing he’s being investigated for betting breaches,’ the message read. ‘Not sure how concrete it is. One to look into.’

Confirmation of that led to Mail Sport breaking the news that same day — Paqueta probe, suspicious bets placed in Brazil traced to where he grew up, City spooked, more to follow. Much more, as it turned out. We went on to reveal the yellow cards in question, including a stoppage-time caution at Bournemouth when Paqueta was blissfully unaware he was already being investigated.

We broke how of all the bookmakers, it was Betway — West Ham’s shirt sponsors — who reported the suspicious patterns to the International Betting Integrity Association after their alert system was triggered.

We learned how Paqueta had privately conceded he does not possess the greatest tackling technique — a limitation which was being tested as boss David Moyes ordered him to track back — and that West Ham were impressed by his day-by-day output, despite the distraction of his investigation.

We visited Paqueta Island in Guanabara Bay, a tranquil paradise near Rio de Janeiro where you will find no cars, no hustle and bustle, only mango trees, sandy beaches, fishing boats, ‘footvolley’ pitches, a distant view of Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain and pride at how their most famous son made it all the way to the Premier League.

Leeds' Crycencio Summerville was taken out by Paqueta, who was booked for this tackle

Leeds’ Crycencio Summerville was taken out by Paqueta, who was booked for this tackle

Paqueta was under investigation when he picked up the yellow card against Bournemouth

Paqueta was under investigation when he picked up the yellow card against Bournemouth

Children play football on Paqueta island, the small slice of sleepy paradise that the player takes his name from

Children play football on Paqueta island, the small slice of sleepy paradise that the player takes his name from 

Paqueta island was rife with talk of the betting investigation when news broke last year

Paqueta island was rife with talk of the betting investigation when news broke last year

Paqueta’s real name is Lucas Tolentino Coelho de Lima, but it is common in Brazil to adopt the region you hail from as a surname. The news that he was being investigated coincided with the island’s biggest event of the year, the Festa de Sao Roque, a religious festival in which the 4,000 locals come together to celebrate life. The speculation was talk of the town, adding to the fireworks that were already going off up above.

One gentleman called Helter Gerard said: ‘It’s a different world when someone achieves what he did and that’s why I don’t think he is involved with these betting schemes. He liked to goof around a lot on the island with his brother, but doing something incredibly wrong like that is not him.’

Another, called Marcos Silva de Avila, told us nobody here would ever contemplate trying to get Paqueta into trouble, saying: ‘There are only small wages on the island and people would not endanger a loved person’s career just to earn money.’

It was an open secret among West Ham sources that he was in line to leave this summer, Mail Sport revealing how his contract contained an £85million release clause that will become active once this window opens.

Paqueta is no stranger to picking up cards but four in particular were in question

Paqueta is no stranger to picking up cards but four in particular were in question 

One insider at West Ham last night said City were not the only ones circling, however. Though his performances in the second half of this Premier League season had not been his best, the Hammers had received enquiries from clubs worldwide.

They wanted his creativity, his pizzazz, even his mischievous side. It is what makes him who he is and it was notable that his full range of flicks and tricks were on display on the last day of the season at the Etihad Stadium, as City beat West Ham 3-1 to become champions. But, crucially, that same Hammers source added last night: ‘Nobody will take him with a charge hanging over him.’

The sense is they are now stuck, him and West Ham, who cannot say for certain if he will ever be seen in claret and blue again.

Paqueta has expressed his surprise at the charges and continues to deny any wrongdoing

Paqueta has expressed his surprise at the charges and continues to deny any wrongdoing

Paqueta showcased his skills on the final day of the season against former suitors Man City

Paqueta showcased his skills on the final day of the season against former suitors Man City

Paqueta insists he is innocent. Strenuously so, in fact, releasing a statement in which he said: ‘I am extremely surprised and upset that the FA has decided to charge me. For nine months, I have cooperated with every step of their investigation and provided all the information I can. I deny the charges in their entirety and will fight with every breath to clear my name.’

That co-operation included surrendering his mobile phone. You suspect he spent a great deal of time on that device yesterday speaking to lawyers in a bid to discover his chances of clearing his name.

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