What's all the fuss about... Liverpool target Lucas Moura
Football Spy has signed up some of the web's top foreign football experts to provide you with first-hand information on the latest Premier League transfer targets. Here's guest writer Jerrad Peters ( @peterssoccer on Twitter) on the latest Brazilian talent getting Premier League scouts all hot and bothered...
Lucas Moura first introduced himself to Brazilian football under the nickname Marcelinho. A hot youth prospect at Corinthians, who he'd joined as a 10-year-old in 2002, he was sold to local rivals Sao Paulo in 2005, deemed surplus to requirements at a club that had just been taken over by Kia Joorabchian’s MSI group and begun to splash the cash on the likes of Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez. A new start brought a new name, and shortly after making his debut he restyled himself Lucas, or Lucas Moura.
Intended to reduce confusion - there are a few Marcelinhos in Brazilian football, in honour of Corinthians great Marcelinho Carioca - the name change would have the opposite effect if he ended up signing for Liverpool and playing alongside countryman Lucas Leiva. But Manchester United are sniffing around as well, with both Milan sides, Real Madrid, Lazio, Malaga, Marseille and PSG also popping up as rumoured destinations for the 19-year-old, even though his club have yet to indicate so much as an interest in selling him. But we’ll get to that later.
The first thing about this player that requires clarification is that name. In many of this week’s headlines he has been referred to as 'Lucas Rodrigues'. It’s not entirely inaccurate, but it’s not actually his name. 'Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva', formerly Marcelinho, is now 'Lucas Moura'. That’s what you type in to look at his highlights on YouTube; that’s how he’s listed when Mano Menezes announces his senior Brazil squad.
If Liverpool and Manchester United are eager to part with several million pounds for a Lucas Rodrigues, Sao Paulo will laugh their way to the bank. No such player exists on their books.
Lucas Moura, on the other hand, has been one of the most-talked about teenage footballers this calendar year. After a breakout season at the Morumbi in which he scored four goals and added four assists, he was listed by FIFA as one of their players to watch in 2011, alongside the likes of Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea) and David de Gea (Manchester United). A few weeks after the article appeared he scored a hat-trick as Brazil stuffed Uruguay 6-0 to win the South American U-20 Championship and eventually finished second in tournament goalscoring behind Neymar.
The first reports linking Lucas Moura to Liverpool appeared in May and resurfaced in September, not surprisingly after he scored the winner in a 2-0 victory over Argentina in Belém. Several observers were also impressed by his performance against Scotland in a London friendly last March, which Brazil won 2-0.
What scouts saw, whether against Scotland or Argentina or Uruguay, was a short, rather stocky footballer who made incredible runs and seemed to have the ball attached to a string at his feet. I’ve heard him likened to Theo Walcott, although it’s a comparison that tends to favour the Arsenal winger.
Lucas Moura is the type of hybrid attacking footballer being rolled out continuously on the Brazilian production line these days. Hulk is another, as are Alexandre Pato and Neymar.
Like those players, he makes most of his runs from wide areas - in his case, like Pato and Hulk, from the right. But he also drops a lot deeper to pick up the ball. In this regard he functions almost as an Iniesta-style attacking midfield player. He can be on the right flank, the left flank or deep down the centre at any given time, which is what makes it so difficult - particularly after just two professional seasons - to accurately predict his position.
It’s Lucas Moura’s pace and ability to dribble the ball through a crowd at speed that gets scouts drooling. He does, however, have a reluctance to use his team-mates and has struggled for consistency this season. Some Brazilian pundits have gone so far to say that his development has, if not stalled, slowed a bit. But the makings of a superstar are there; the natural talent is undeniable.
Having said that, I don’t think a move to the Premier League - where positions tend to be more adhered to than in Portugal, Italy or Spain, and when the players he’s dribbling past would be more likely to put in a hard tackle - would be the right move for him. And that’s assuming Sao Paulo are even interested in selling. I’m not so sure they are.
After his heroics at the South American U-20 Championship, Sao Paulo wrote a £67 million buyout clause into Lucas Moura’s contract. Now, that’s not to say they won’t budge from it, but it does make Liverpool’s initial £9million bid, and the £20million offers being talked about this week, a bit ridiculous.
It was just last week, after all, that Neymar agreed a contract with Santos that will pay him £90,000 per week and keep him at the club until 2014, and a lot of observers are looking at that deal as a sort of watershed moment in modern Brazilian football, where TV revenue is pouring in and clubs are awash with sponsorship money. At this point Lucas Moura can probably earn more at Sao Paulo than at either Liverpool or Manchester United.
Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer