Brazilian football, it seems, is never short of talent and the latest in a long line of Samba stars to move from South America to Europe and make an immediate impact is Paris Saint-Germain’s wonderkid Lucas Moura.
The 20-year-old is currently one of the hottest properties in world football along with compatriot Neymar, but Moura has moved to Europe before the Santos star and has already started to challenge himself at a higher level, in European competition at least.
Neymar the prodigy may well have recently featured on the front of Time magazine but Europe is the ultimate goal for the 21-year-old, however his younger international teammate has beaten him to it and is already thriving.
Is that because he is a better player? No. Whilst both are incredibly gifted players, Neymar seems to just shade that comparison given his natural ability. They are polar opposites though when it comes to their attitudes on and off the pitch.
That, right now, seems to be the biggest difference.
Here are a few reasons why Moura could fulfil his considerable promise more than Neymar’s prodigious potential.
Moura's earlier move to Europe gives him more time to adapt
Firstly Moura is already in Europe. Whilst there is no doubt that Neymar has the ability to play for the best teams in the world in any of the best leagues, he remains in Brazil for now.
Moving continent at such a young age is always a risk, but Moura’s move to PSG was a calculated one. He knew he was going to play, was moving to a team where plenty of the players speak the same language and Leonardo’s faith in him has ensured him top billing in the French capital. Familiarity is key at a young age.
Neymar has not been so lucky despite the long list of suitors desperate to sign him, including Leonardo, who wanted the Santos star before signing Moura. When he moves, he will likely join a side with less of a Portuguese-speaking influence than PSG and without the guardianship of a well-respected Brazilian.
Unless of course he joins Moura in Paris.
Moving before World Cup 2014 for Neymar now is a huge risk, especially considering the increased pressure upon him following Moura’s early success in Ligue 1.
Struggling to adapt to a new country and league in the season leading to the World Cup would raise the disastrous prospect of the Selecao either including a badly out of sorts Neymar in the squad due to public pressure, or doing the unthinkable. Dropping him.
Freedom granted by less pressure on Moura than Neymar
It is the public hysteria that follows Neymar that has enabled Moura to thrive though. He is not followed by the same media circus.
Despite plenty of attention being paid to him and his exploits with his new employers, Moura has flown relatively low under the radar in comparison to his fellow countryman.
This freedom from pressure and expectation everywhere he goes benefits the 20-year-old and in turn greatly hinders Neymar’s ability to even take a moment to breathe, less adapt to a foreign culture.
Because of that, Moura is in a better position to fulfil his potential in the short-term. Thinking further ahead too, the youngster would appear to be in a strong position.
Whilst it remains to be seen how long PSG’s halcyon days will last, if Moura continues on his current trajectory he will be fielding offers from every top club in Europe every season.
But if the side from the French capital reach that level, then he is already there and settled in his surroundings.
Neymar’s media obsession and lack of focus on his team
Selecao legend Pele also raised an important issue in the comparison of the two, albeit indirectly.
The 72-year-old told Estado that he disapproves of Neymar’s flagrant flirtation with the media. Moura on the other hand is not guilty of that.
PSG’s star man is softly spoken and eager to learn and continue his development all the time whereas Neymar already appears to feel capable of preaching to the choir.
In Europe that wouldn’t happen, and at times it feels as if he is doing to constantly remind Europe that he is there.
Not that he needs to, we are well aware of that.
It is however a clear sign that the Santos man has finally outgrown his surroundings.
Moura of course is highly thought of, but crucially keeps his feet on the ground more than his compatriot by shying away from the media spotlight when he can.
Brazil 2014 World Cup
Given that Moura is subject to relatively lower expectations than Neymar, he could be hurt less by any potential failure by Brazil in the 2014 World Cup than the “next Pele.”
It is that focus on reaching his optimum level that drives Moura and encourages him to keep his head down. Neymar already enjoys the exposure and media attention that comes with initial success and it takes his eye of the ball at times.
Both are expected to be heavily involved in the Selacao’s bid to win the World Cup on home soil and they will almost certainly play key roles in the campaign.
However, should the hosts fail to win their own tournament, big questions will inevitably be asked of Neymar’s mentality and handling of such high expectations.
Less emphasis will be put on Moura’s role in any such failure.
So who is potentially better?
That is the difference between the pair; Neymar is an extrovert to the point of arrogance on and off the pitch, although not quite tipping the scales yet. But Moura appears to be more humble, and something of a homebody.
You’d think that would hinder him moving to a new country in an entirely unknown continent, but it hasn’t. PSG’s Samba star made a sage decision in joining the French revolution, but Neymar has not been afforded that luxury.
Despite all of his sublime skill, that crucial benefit could be the difference between which of the pair greater realises their prodigious potential in the long run.
Moura certainly has the upper hand right now.