Lucas Moura: What PSG Fans Can Expect from the Brazilian Midfielder
It cost Paris St-Germain some €45 million to keep him away from Old Trafford this summer and, once January comes, fans of the Ligue 1 side will finally get the chance to see Lucas Moura in action.
The Brazilian will hope to finish his São Paulo career with a bang this week as his side compete for the Copa Sudamericana title on Wednesday night—an opportunity for the attacker to seal the first tournament win of his professional career.
His star is on the rise and with a move to Europe ahead of him, as well as a new Brazil manager to impress, an important 12 months in the youngster's development await.
So, what can PSG fans expect from Lucas Moura when he finally arrives?
A Potential World-Leading Talent
When in form, Lucas Moura is a potential match-winner. Compact and strong, the youngster combines blistering acceleration with excellent close control—quite simply, he terrifies opposition defenders.
The São Paulo-born forward will offer a variety of tactical options for PSG manager Carlo Ancelotti, depending on the Ligue 1 side's needs.
Primarily a central attacking midfielder, Lucas has also spent large spells of his career playing on the right flank and has also operated as a support striker on many occasions.
Lucas is not Neymar—his colleague's skill is frankly astounding and his goal-scoring return alone already ranks him among the best players in the world.
Lucas may currently still be far from that level of performance, but he too boasts no shortage of natural talent. The potential to launch himself into the game's elite is there and, with time and effort, he will surely succeed.
For the moment, though, he remains a 20-year-old still very much learning how to make the most of his natural advantages, and his inconsistent returns directly reflect this learning process.
To date, each moment of brilliance is matched with an equally frustrating run down a blind alley. With time, though, it must be hoped that Lucas' awareness of the game around him will improve to match his ability on the ball.
An Inconsistent Return
As mentioned, Lucas can be both a special talent and an inconsistent performer. In the 2012 Brazilian championship, the youngster may have offered a return of six goals and seven assists in 21 appearances, but there is a justifiable feeling that those statistics could be improved.
It must also be added that his goals total is much improved for a late October hat-trick against Sport Recife—a game that emphasises where Lucas must do better on a more regular basis.
Lucas is at his best when bursting past his strikers at speed, using his pace to gain a clear advantage. At times, though, he is still too tentative when in possession, despite his obvious abilities.
This offers an exciting challenge for PSG. Ancelotti and his band of highly experienced players must encourage him to utilise his strengths and, if they succeed, the results could be spectacular.
There is no reason why Lucas should not have been in double figures for goals in the Brazilian championship and, as part of a very strong São Paulo side, he undoubtedly should have been. He has all the qualities needed, but now the youngster must take the next step in his development.
He has finished the season strongly and will leave for France on a high. PSG, though, are at a stage in their development where they cannot afford Lucas failing to turn up for several weeks of the season.
It's now up to the player to prove he is ready.
A Hard-Working Team Player
Brazilian attacking midfielders are often both praised for their abilities and lambasted for their work ethic in equal measure.
All that, though, is beginning to change with a generation of attacking talent who offer a greater sense of defensive responsibility than their predecessors—a charge led by Brazil's golden trio of Neymar, Oscar and, of course, Lucas.
The young playmaker has made it clear since his move to PSG was announced just how much he hopes to leave São Paulo with a title. However, it can never be said that Lucas is solely motivated by personal glory.
When São Paulo have played at their best over the past two seasons, it has been when Lucas has been in form and single-handedly torn apart opposition defences. However, even when it is not clicking for him in front of goal, he is a tireless runner for his side.
Given his pace, Lucas is expected to be key in transitions, launching counterattacks from deep and he does not disappoint in this function. However, his pressing of opponents and willingness to cover those behind him is an impressive and often underappreciated dimension to his game that should serve him well in Europe.
The difficulties of adjusting to the differing demands of the European game are well-known, but Lucas' attitude should aid his adaptation tremendously.
The Transfer-Fee Dilemma
I have previously made clear my worries regarding Lucas' move to PSG and expressed my hope that, given his massive transfer fee, he is not ultimately regarded in a similar light to his São Paulo forerunner Denilson.
It was, admittedly, a very harsh analysis, but there are some reasons for my concern.
When Denilson moved from the Brazilian club to Betis for a new world-record value in 1998, he was supposed to conquer the world. Now, though, his glorious talents are but a distant memory for many.
Denilson was an entertainer, a whirlwind with the ball at his feet, but he ultimately failed to shine in Europe.
He is of course not the only Brazilian to fail to adapt. Santos, before the arrival of Neymar, had previously hailed Robinho as the natural successor to Pele, but his career in Europe has also failed to hit the heights once predicted.
However, as suggested in the last slide, Lucas' hard-working nature and down-to-earth attitude should help him adapt.
Costing €45 million could, though, may also be a hindrance. Despite his age and inexperience, fans tend not to afford too much adaptation time to players bearing that level of price tag.
He will also arrive at a PSG side that is both underachieving and in desperate search of instantaneous success. The hope must be that Ancelotti can use every ounce of his experience to allow Lucas the slow adaptation and lessened expectations that can only benefit him in the long run.
An Iconic Figure for the New PSG?
PSG are a side in great transition and are in the process of transforming themselves into challengers at the very highest levels of the European game. It is not an easy change to make, though, and their current Ligue 1 struggles are representative of the difficulties.
The Parisiens' current icon is without doubt new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The 31-year-old Swede's arrival at the Parc des Princes this summer sent a clear message out to the rest of the footballing world and the rock star footballer most certainly hasn't disappointed.
However, for all his success and individual brilliance, Zlatan is both on the wrong side of 30 and his presence has a tendency to make his sides play in a certain manner—one that has proved tremendously successful at league level, but has never transferred to the European stage.
Lucas, though, could be the man to take them to the next level in the long run. Should he reach the levels of performance that his talent deserves, there would be no excuse for PSG to continue playing the ball long to a striker and that, in turn, could bring more of their creative talents into play.
Top sides inevitably evolve to contain a star—that one player who intimidates the opposition before they have even stepped onto the pitch and also offers great commercial value to the club. Lucas could be this player for the "new PSG."
With his directness, no shortage of skill on the ball and excellent long-range finishing, Lucas has all the qualities that supporters generally love. If they afford him time to settle, he could eventually usurp Zlatan as PSG's true global star.