Lucas Covolan: Torquay United's Brazilian goalkeeper 'living the dream' at Plainmoor

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Lucas Covolan
Lucas Covolan has played in Brazil, Spain and England

It is the sort of question you might get in a pub quiz tie-breaker.

"Name as many clubs as you can who have had a Brazilian player in their squad who has been a team-mate of Philippe Coutinho and Oscar and gone up against Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson..."

Sure, you would have giants such as Barcelona, Paris St-Germain, Manchester City and Bayern Munich, but you would also get a point if you said Torquay United.

Yes, the National League side have their own Brazilian star in goalkeeper Lucas Covolan after he moved to the fifth-tier side this summer.

And as his side prepare to face Boreham Wood in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup, Covolan has revealed more about his interesting career to BBC Sport.

Mixing it with some of Brazil's best

Oscar, Philippe Coutinho and Alisson
Oscar (left), Philippe Coutinho and Alisson are the highest-profile stars Lucas Covolan has crossed paths with

The first big name to cross Covolan's path was Coutinho, whom he played alongside in his early days as a youth player.

Covolan was a team-mate of former Chelsea midfielder Oscar, who is now earning big money in China, during the goalkeeper's brief spell with Brazil's under-20 side.

"Oscar was the biggest name that came to Europe from that side - there are loads of names that are still playing first division football in Brazil," he recalls.

"When I was at Vasco da Gama I played with Coutinho and when I was at Athletico Paranaense I played against Alisson in a small tournament between the under-23 players.

"When we played against Internacional he was one of their players and we won that tournament against them.

"A few years on from that, he's winning the Champions League and first choice for Brazil - football is crazy.

"Football is not fair every time, so I keep working hard and keep my mind positive all the time to achieve my dream."

From Brazil to Devon, via Spain

Atletico Paranaense celebrate
Covolan's former club Athletico Paranaense beat Internacional - who saw Alisson come through their ranks - in September's Brazilian Cup final

The 27-year-old, who began his senior career at top-flight Brazilian side Paranaense, has taken a rather convoluted route to his current employers on the English Riviera.

"I was at Paranaense in 2013, I had a three-year contract, but they had eight goalkeepers and after 18 months I realised that I would never get a chance to play," he explains on a sunny morning at Torquay's training ground among the rolling Devon hills outside the nearby town of Newton Abbot.

"I moved to Rio Branco in the north of Brazil and we went on to win the regional league, but I decided that I didn't want to stay any longer in Brazil, playing for small teams and building to bigger teams, so I had the chance to go to Spain a few months later and I accepted it straight away."

After two years in Spain with Majorcan regional sides Club Deportivo Atletico Rafal and Union Deportiva Alaro he was back home, but still with a burning desire to play this side of the Atlantic, when a chance phone call changed his career.

"It was a dream to come and play in England as I always liked English football," he added.

"Then one morning I got a call from an agent, which wasn't my agent at the time, and asked me if I was interested to play in England and of course I said 'yes'."

That 'yes' was to join National League South part-timers Whitehawk in 2016 and a season later he began a two-year spell at Isthmian League side Worthing.

"It was a bit difficult at the beginning for me," adds Covolan.

"But I knew I would fight for it and try to climb again and it would take a bit of time to go step by step."

Having started as the Gulls' second choice he grabbed the number one jersey in August and has kept three clean sheets in 13 games since.

'Living the dream'

Arena da Baixada and Plainmoor
Athletico Paranaense's Arena da Baixada (top) is a far cry from Torquay United's Plainmoor ground

"Luck is a big thing in football. The right time, the right person and the trust the manager puts in you," Covolan says when asked about how his career has panned out and what he hopes for the future.

And while some of his former team-mates have made it to the big time, others have fallen by the wayside and out of football altogether.

But does he have a tinge of envy over those former colleagues who are now stars of the world game?

"I'd never be jealous of anyone as it's not my character, I'm just proud of them because they really deserve it," he says.

"If you're young and you don't have a dream to be a football player, then you're not Brazilian.

"If you don't have a dream you have no point in life, if you keep on your dream and trying to go as far as you can, then if you can't achieve your dream at least you can be close.

"But I've realised that I'm living my dream. I play football, something I really enjoy, and I get paid for it."

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