Lucas Moura, 14 months later
Paris Saint-Germain’s sixth consecutive victory over Olympique Marseille at the Parc des Princes on Sunday night was significant for a number of reasons. It more or less put one hand on the title as Les Parisiens opened up an eight-point gap ahead of nearest rivals Monaco. It put the club level with OM on 32 wins a piece in the head to head. It extended this incredible unbeaten run at home to 26 games and the team are now just two shy from 101 goals which they accumulated in the whole of last season.
But, it was a game that sparked the coming of age of a player that has taken his time to settle with life at the French capital. One of the world’s most expensive and exciting teenagers; Lucas Moura.
He was the best player on the pitch in an attacking sense by a distance. We saw something new from Lucas, a player who was willing to take responsibility, galvanise his peers by making something happen. Not only did he terrorise Lucas Mendes for the majority of the game, he would work inside using his quick feet and seeking a killer pass. This kid is no one trick pony, he is vastly intelligent.
Technically gifted, his speed and dynamism are his key strengths but he has the ability to split a defence in two with a precise through ball. He also nearly scored one of the greatest goals of any season by running all the way from the edge of his own penalty area, skipping challenges for fun before diligently dinking goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, only to be denied by Rod Fanni’s clearance on the line. It was spectacular. An unbelievable moment of the Ligue 1 season which had it come to fruition, would have been talked about for years to come.
We saw plenty of the number 29 on Sunday in a fixture that will endear him to the Parisien faithful forever. If you put on a show against Marseille, you will do no wrong in the eyes of those affiliated with Paris Saint-Germain. When he was substituted in the second-half he received the loudest chants of the evening from those in attendance at the Parc. A player who was vastly popular beforehand has reached dizzy new heights.
I would not say it has been a rocky road for Lucas by any means, but it has taken a while to avert himself at the club. It has only really been since the turn of the year that he has become a consistent figure in the team. Laurent Blanc has given the 21-year-old a run of games over the past few weeks, largely down to Edinson Cavani’s injury. ‘El Matador’ being out has been a blessing in disguise for the stocky Brazilian who has taken the chance to excel. He needed this prolonged spell in the team and he has repaid the faith shown in him by Blanc.
The likes of Javier Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Jeremy Menez and of course Cavani are always vying it out for two of those spots out wide to support Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Cavani when fit is guaranteed the one, leaving the other three to jostle it out for the other. Pastore has been ushered into a more central role so really that leaves Lavezzi competing with Lucas. Lavezzi to his credit has also performed admirably in the absence of Cavani but there is no doubt who the fans think is the most influential. The capital based newspaper ‘Le Parisien’ did a poll asking supporters who should be in the team, Lavezzi or Lucas. A whopping 80% nominated the latter.
There was a lot of pressure on him when he arrived. At the time the club outlaid the biggest sum to date for a player - an inexperienced one in that - for around €45m in August 2012. But, we would have to wait until January until the Brazilian championship ended so his club Sao Paulo would have his services for the whole campaign. This was a coup for Paris as Manchester United wanted the player as well but Leonardo’s power of persuasion (the then director of football) and the club’s flexibility to let Lucas finish the season with Sao Paulo, tied up the loose strings. Thiago Silva played a part in the deal happening as well. Lucas confessed at the time; “I spoke to Thiago Silva and Leonardo and they spoke very well. I know they are building a wonderful project at this club, with a fantastic structure and major players”.
You would have thought that the new boy would take a while to settle in? It was not the case. He was the only positive on his debut in a drab 0-0 draw with Ajaccio. Carlo Ancelotti put him in behind Ibrahimovic with Pastore and Lavezzi operating the wide areas. Where most underperformed, the 5 foot 7 debutant who was used to warmer climes sizzled on a bitterly cold night in the capital. He demonstrated weaving runs, pressed the opposition and showed maturity beyond his years. The signs were good. They were that good he won PSG Player of the Month twice on the bounce. He also put on a superb performance in the Mestalla against Valencia in the last-16 of the UEFA Champions League.
But, in the quarter-final against FC Barcelona, with the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and even the great Lionel Messi coming off the bench, little Lucas outshone them all. Even though PSG went out bravely on away goals that night, he along with his teammates made Europe well aware of the club and the direction it was heading. Lucas was on the right-hand side where he terrified Jordi Alba at left-back and struggled to deal with him. The Brazilian’s ability to pick the ball up from deep, run with it at pace and leaving his adversaries for dead is something that we had not seen done to a Barca team for some time. Perhaps the element of the unknown played a part from a Barcelona perspective.
After that though, things stagnated a little. His first goal came this season in a 2-0 win away to Bordeaux but he has largely been in and out of the team. You do tend to forget though that this is a player who is still a baby in comparison to many of his experienced peers at Camp des Loges. Then again, not many 21-year-olds have accumulated over 30 caps for Brazil so that just serves as another reminder to his ability.
Blanc said a few weeks back that he wanted more from Lucas and he is certainly getting his wish. The player can become one of the world’s best in the coming years and Paris Saint-Germain’s project is a whole lot stronger with him. The boy from Brazil is coming of age in a Parisien shirt just at the right time. Especially with a FIFA World Cup in his homeland just a few months away.
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