It is hard to believe that it is as recently as summer 2022 when Lucas Gourna-Douath first appeared for our Red Bulls. In his first season in Austria, the 19-year-old has become a fulcrum to our midfield in Austrian and European football.
He is as happy as can be in Salzburg with a uniquely positive attitude. He remains hungry for success with his optimism and has all the hallmarks of a leader despite his young and carefree outlook. Always professional yet ready to have fun - Lucas is one of a kind, and always has been.
The little Lucas was mad about football and full of life.
"I had a fairly complicated childhood. I grew up with my mother and brother, as my father left the home quite early. It was a difficult but happy childhood, as I always loved football and played constantly with my friends.
The little Lucas was mad about football and full of life. I could be a bit impetuous and crazy. My mother and my brother put me on the right track."
No surprise that Lucas's relationship to his mother turned into a very special one. It's only logical too that she visits him regularly in Salzburg, around once per month. He uses those opportunities to show his mum his new home. He recently went with her to Mirabellplatz, one of his favourite spots in Salzburg.
Lucas acquired the nickname 'journalist' from his friends at an early age. It was the result of his huge interest in football, which went way beyond kickabouts in the courtyard. As much as he enjoys the tag, he isn't planning a new career yet.
I inform myself as well as I can, and I read a lot of books.
"They called me this as I know everything about the players and matches, and I can generally analyse football well. Since my childhood I have known almost everything, and I inform myself as well as I can. I read a lot of books - about football, of course, but also about other topics. I like books about coaches the most, such as those from Pep Guardiola or Jürgen Klopp, or players such as Olivier Giroud.
I also like to see what athletes from other sports, such as Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, say in their books, as it helps me to develop in my career. That is important for my knowledge and for my life development."
Another educational experience, but in a rather painful way, was the end of his time at AS St. Etienne, whom he left the Parisian suburbs to join as a youngster but experienced relegation into the second division with.
I learned a lot in this year.
"Scoring my first goal in Saint-Etienne was probably one of the best moments in my career so far. I spent more or less my entire footballing development there, learned a lot and gained huge amounts of experience at an early age. That made relegation even more painful.
It's important for a young player to go through these kind of experiences. You develop more every day, but I really learned a lot this year."
Lucas is still in contact with lots of people from his former club, and regularly follows their games on social media channels. Defender Mickael Nade remains one of his best friends, with our midfield ace in regular contact with other former players and coaches.
"We played together for years, and that brings you together. We will always be friends."
Whether legends of the past such as Zinedine Zidane or youngsters such as Aurelien Tchouameni – France's midfield has always featured world-class players. Les Bleus have another future talent in 19-year-old Lucas, who is well aware of his idols.
I like players who can be depended on to lead a team.
"I like N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, as they are also French and play in my kind of position. I try to have various idols, no matter if they play in my position or not. I like players who can be depended on to lead a team, like Vincent Kompany, Patrick Vieira or Claude Makelele, for instance."
As the season has gone on, our number 27 has developed another particular characteristic. Lucas doesn't just enjoy the chants of the Salzburg fans at home in the Red Bull Arena, but relishes away trips too – with provocative opponents spurring him on!
I am not shy, and I don't hide away.
"I love playing in full stadiums where there are a lot of fans against us. That only motivates me even more. That's part of my personality. I am not shy, and I don't hide away, whether on the ball or in life. I think that's a quality you need to make it to the top. We all need to help one another in the team."
It's no surprise that Lucas with his cheerful nature did not take long to settle even though he was suffering from an injury at the time of his transfer, which made joining us a little difficult. Along with his native tongue of French, the 19-year-old speaks superb English, which has made things easier - while his German language skills are still a work in progress.
I had a really good connection with Oumar Solet right away.
"Moving here wasn't so difficult, as I am a person who is open to others and enjoys talking to them. I had a really good connection with Oumar Solet right away, as he is French, and I knew him beforehand a little. I get on well with everyone though, and I'm always on the phone to Amar, Strahinja, Nici and Luka if we don't see one another for a few days."
He lived up to the hype following his summer transfer in next to no time, with the cheerful French youngster winning hearts in Salzburg both on and off the pitch.
We as footballers need to be aware that we have a very special privilege.
"When you see me dancing for joy after a match, I just know how incredibly fortunate I am! It's important for me to keep repaying the love of the fans in the stadium. I try to bring a smile to everyone I deal with.
Us footballers always need to be aware that we have a very special privilege. I am a keen football fan myself and try to be respectful to everyone and a good idol. You can rely on me on and off the pitch!"
Within a few weeks after his arrival, Lucas developed into one of our key players. The defensive midfielder has taken on a key role in our title battle, which makes the Frenchman especially eager.
"I always wanted to win titles in my career, and I hope I can manage it here. To win the Bundesliga with FC Red Bull Salzburg is the number one priority – the entire team will give their all for it!"