It looks set to become one of the most protracted transfers of this summer’s window. The boy from Brazil with toes of twinkle and the club recently revealed as the worlds most marketable sports brand, carefully courting his signature.
The facts are obvious. Lucas Moura is a 19-year-old, samba star with a precocious gift and a bright future in the game. Moura is also a player Sir Alex Ferguson respects and admires, another fact. The hyperbole and confusion arises from the pedigree of the player himself. At 19 and with no footballing experience outside of the nurturing ground that is Brazilian football, can Moura really command a £30 million fee?
Lucas Rodrigues Moura Da Silva began his youth career, interestingly for a Brazilian youth product, in Italy with Turin side Juventus. After a career with the Old Lady began to stagnate Moura moved back home, taking up tutelage under the banner of Brazilian giants Corinthians. Then, in 2005, Moura moved again, this time across Brazil to the bustling Sao Paolo club, taking up a youth scholarship at 13.
After asserting himself at his new club, Moura’s stock has been on the rise ever since, to the extent that he is now certified as the clubs most marketable asset. This is where Manchester United and a cool £30 million come in.
Two conflicting reports, one yesterday and now again, in the last few hours, only serve to exacerbate Moura’s mainstream media attention, whilst compounding the confusion over the transfer’s legitimacy.
Yesterday the transfer looked set for completion amidst media assertions that a £26 million fee had been thrashed out. Today, however, Moura’s agent played devil’s advocate, quashing the flames of red hope by stating via The Daily Mail: “Lucas Moura won’t leave. He is happy at Sao Paolo. We have to forget this subject. There is no possibility he leaves now.”
I have to admit my own exposure to the talents of Lucas Moura have been limited, to YouTube clips and a few 30 minute cameo appearances, most recently in an U23 friendly against the GB Olympic team. There is no doubt from this highly reputable knowledge base that I have assembled that Moura is a talented player, little doubt that he could succeed at a higher level—who am I to question the temerity of Sir Alex’s judgement? Yet doubts still persist as to whether Moura should really command a £30 million fee, and it appears the boss, shown by his reluctance to stretch the extra £4 million agrees, with me.
Thirty million pounds is £1.5 million of the club’s record transfer. Admittedly Dimitar Berbatov cannot also justify the honour of club’s most successful transfer, but the ramifications of such a label transcend the literal. Moura would be "labelled" a better prospect than Wayne Rooney. He would be two-and-a-half times more expensive than Cristiano Ronaldo at 18. He would become the second most expensive transfer in United history, twice as expensive as recent acquisition Shinji Kagawa, an older and much more established star. Lucas Moura would have to cope with all this having never played first team football outside of Brazil.
Admittedly, with the talent young Lucas undoubtedly possesses, he could thrive within the system and go on to establish himself as a great, worthy of £30 million. Yet the transfer could also go the other way, if Moura failed to settle or adapt, or his progress curtailed lower than the expected rate.
By setting a ceiling, Sir Alex Ferguson is doing the right thing. It is a clear statement that Manchester United has the money and has identified the player, but maintains a position of control. Lucas Moura is not bigger than Manchester United and by completing a deal at above the already established "ceiling" of £26 million, the pressure on the transfer is intensified for all concerned.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the transfer completed. I just want it done on Manchester United’s rather than Sao Paolo’s terms.