Reading made it signing number five on Friday with the addition of Lucas Boye, who arrived from Serie A side Torino on a season-long loan deal. But most Royals fans - myself included - won’t know a huge deal about the Argentine winger. Despite playing for some strong teams in Europe and South America, this will be his first time in England.
So, below, I’ve had a look at all the key things you’d want to know about him. Who is he, where’s he from, where’s he been, what’s his playing style, what he could actually offer Reading on the pitch, and much more.
Who is he?
Lucas Boye, 23 years old and 5ft 10 tall, comes from San Gregorio in the Santa Fe province of mid-Argentina. That’s fairly close to the capital city (Buenos Aires), where his professional football career started.
At least judging by the YouTube interview that he did with the club after signing, he doesn’t speak any English, so will need some time to settle on that front. However, his career path so far - which has taken him to three different countries excluding England - shows that he’s more than capable of adapting culturally.
Where’s he been so far?
A bit more on that career to date. Boye’s professional career started five years ago at Buenos Aires side River Plate, playing for the first time at the end of January 2014. He went on to appear 32 times and score twice, but also spent time out on loan a Newell’s Old Boys - a team based in his home region of Santa Fe.
That brings us up to the summer of 2016, when he made a permanent switch to Serie A side Torino. In the 2016/17 season, Boye got his first proper taste of regular first-team football, playing 30 times in the league and a further three times in the Coppa Italia. He was even named in The Guardian’s 50 best young footballers in Italy in January 2017.
However, the next campaign didn’t go so well for him. Injury problems restricted him to just 11 appearances in the first half of the season, before he was sent out on loan to Celta Vigo in the second half, but he didn’t manage to score or register an assist.
Torino were happy to loan Boye out once again in 2018/19, sending him to the Greek capital for a season-long stay with AEK Athens. By all accounts, that was a much more fruitful period in his career, with the winger scoring six times in 23 league matches. He also had nine games in the Greek Cup and a further four in the Champions League - although AEK were knocked out in the group stages.
Where does he play?
The consensus on Boye is that, although he’s predominantly a left winger, he’s also capable of appearing in various attacking positions, such as centre forward and a number ten role. In fact, when asked about this by the press after the Sheffield Wednesday game, Jose Gomes said the following:
“He can play a number of positions, striker, second striker winger. Argentine blood player. His main position is a striker. Because he’s young and has energy he has been used as a winger.”
That would suggest that Gomes sees Boye as more of a striker than a winger, but he acknowledges how versatile the Argentine is. With Reading using various different formations under the current manager including 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 diamond and 4-3-3, having someone who can take to any of those systems makes sense.
What’s his playing style like?
For a detailed look at this, I’ll use the below stats graphic from football writer Ram Srinivas.
Quick explainer: These bars show how highly Boye ranks in each specific area of his game - in relation to everyone else in the same position in the same league (in this case all other wingers in the Greek Super League). For example, we can see that Boye had more defensive duels last season than almost all of his peers, but he came out at the other end of the spectrum for committing fouls.
A quick look shows that Boye is certainly effective in the final third in many areas of his game. His numbers for ‘attacking play’ at the top come in at least near the median rate across the board, indicating that there’s no major weaknesses here.
Of particular note here though is his number of ‘NP (non-penalty) goals’, of which he scored plenty more than other wingers in the Greek league last season. In fact, Boye netted six times across the course of the campaign, but in just 1152 minutes - coming out at a rate of one goal every 192 minutes, so essentially once every other game.
The stats suggest he scored goals due to pretty high levels of shots, xG (expected goals) value per shot and the number of touches he took in the penalty area. Interestingly though, he didn’t excel at any of these, so it’s not that he was getting into brilliant positions frequently or peppering the goal.
Otherwise, he was involved in the build-up to his team’s goals a lot. Boye tends to do this though with his sheer number of attempted dribbles - rather than making a particularly large number of crosses. He could certainly sharpen up his success rate for crossing and dribbling, although it could well be true that his dribbling completion number is low by virtue of him attempting so many.
Cast your eye to the left, and his technical ability doesn’t seem to be quite as good. Boye appears to be able to keep things simple quite well, with a decent pass accuracy - particularly in the final third - but some of the more tricky skills evade him. He doesn’t play a lot of through balls or smart passes (passes played between two to three opposition players), while a low amount of his forward passes went into the final third.
Defensively, we can see that he works pretty hard. Boye gets involved in plenty of aerial duels, defensive duels, tackles and interceptions (those last two being adjusted for his team’s possession level), although he’s only really effective at defensive duels.
So how does he fit in?
Going by the above, I’d put Boye down as a winger - even if Gomes’ comments suggested that the manager could see him as a striker. The Argentine’s attacking abilities are probably best unlocked out wide where he’ll more naturally find the space to dribble and then get into the box to shoot.
At least on the basis of his stats, Boye seems to be weaker as a passing creative outlet - getting on the ball and playing in teammates. For me, that means he’s likely not best deployed in a central position, such as in the number ten role behind the striker or leading the line himself. The latter seems an especially bad idea when you note his inability to win aerial duels - he won’t be able to hold the ball up.
That shouldn’t be a problem. Although we’ve all complained about the lack of quality in central midfield and up top in recent weeks, pace and directness out wide (especially on the break and for stretching the play) has also been in short supply. Modou Barrow is inconsistent at best, while other options - Josh Barrett, Yakou Meite and Michael Olise among them - are more inclined to cut inside.
The arrival of Boye and his dribbling ability should change that, and would allow Reading to move away from a narrow 4-4-2 diamond (as often seen in pre-season) and back to a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 from Jose Gomes’ opening campaign.