During the early stages of his career in Brazil, Lucas Covolan crossed paths with the likes of Alisson, Philippe Coutinho and Oscar.
While the 30-year-old did not manage to follow their path to stardom, the veteran goalkeeper has finally worked his way into the EFL with Port Vale, following a lengthy journey through the lower leagues in a tale of resilience and perseverance.
Covolan started his professional career at Vasco da Gama and twice represented Brazil Under-20s in 2010, and having spent over a decade in the wilderness, he is determined to make up for lost time.
“My mindset is that every person is different, so just keep pushing forward as you never know what your limit is,” he said on the Official EFL Podcast. “I still think I have a lot of years left and I think that League Two is not going to be the last step in my career.
“I don’t look at people like Oscar and Coutinho, who have made their amazing careers, and envy them. I’m not jealous. They have worked hard and they’re very talented.
“I’ve played with a lot of people who cannot play football anymore and I still have the opportunity to play, so I feel very lucky to be here.”
The journeyman stopper first came to England in 2016, having plied his trade in the lower divisions of Brazil and Spain.
Three seasons in non-league at Whitehawk and Worthing followed before he was offered a jump up to the National League with Torquay United.
And it was during the 2021 play-off final where Covolan truly rose to prominence, scoring an injury-time equaliser against Hartlepool United, drawing comparisons with compatriot Alisson, who netted a header for Liverpool earlier in the year.
“I think that was one of the happiest moments in my career, if not one of the happiest moments in my life,” he said. “Talking about it gives me the chills.
“There was a corner a few minutes earlier. I was going up and when I reached the halfway line, one of my teammates said: ‘no don’t go now, it’s too early’. A few minutes after, we had another corner and I went up into the 18-yard box.
“When the ball was getting closer to me, I just made a run in front of everyone and I got to the highest point I could get. The image of the ball going inside the goal was something that I couldn’t believe. The ball was just crossing the line in slow-motion.
“In that moment, I didn’t know what to do. Hearing all the loud screams from the Torquay fans in the stadium, it was just mental and something I think I’m never going to forget because it was such a beautiful moment, and it gave us a chance to win the play-offs.”
Unfortunately for Covolan and Torquay, they would eventually lose the game on penalties, despite two saves in the shootout by the 6ft 4in Brazilian.
But his disappointment was short-lived, as he agreed a two-year contract with League Two side Vale just three days later.
Despite admitting he misses his family back home, Covolan is enjoying life under experienced manager Darrell Clarke and eyeing promotion to the third tier.
“When I knew that I’d made it to the League, I talked to my parents and they were so happy for me and what I’m achieving in life,” he continued. “The only thing is that I wish they could be closer and then they could share those moments. Due to Covid, I didn’t have a chance to go back home to Brazil this year.
“He’s a very enthusiastic manager and I’m very happy to work with him. He’s a very positive guy as well. I’ve been with him two or three months now and I’m already learning so much. I believe we’re going to do well this year.