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Lucas Moura: The Brazilian Theo Walcott? Have Tottenham signed him at the perfect time?

Spurs have not had to splash out on their most notable January signing - and he could prove to be an absolute bargain if he is given time

SENIOR ANALYST
Feature 01 Feb 2018, 18:32 IST
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International Champions Cup 2015 - Manchester United v Paris Saint-Germain
Lucas Moura in action against Manchester United at the International Champions Cup 2015

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino doesn’t make too many mistakes. Since taking charge at White Hart Lane in 2014, he has gradually built Spurs into a side that now expects rather than hopes for Champions League football.

He has surpassed north London rivals Arsenal, yet a meaningful trophy has thus far eluded the 45-year-old.

In a quest to maintain Spurs' standing and to push them towards the silverware that they so desperately crave, they made a deadline day swoop for Paris Saint-Germain winger Lucas Moura for around £25 million.

Long tipped for big things that have never materialised, the 25-year-old has only 76 minutes of league football under his belt this season.

He has been the primary victim of the arrival of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at Parc des Princes this term, although his compatriot expressed his disgust at the way the former Sao Paulo man has been treated.

“I think it's very unfair,” he said after helping PSG to a 3-2 win over Rennes in the Coupe de la Ligue on Tuesday.

“He's my brother in football. I wish him all the best. Regardless of the destination, I hope he'll score a lot of goals and that he'll return to the Brazil team.”

Marquinhos, meanwhile, was left in tears by the prospect of Lucas departing France.

“It’s sad,” he told Canal+ when a move became inevitable in mid-January. “I wish him only the best. He’s a friend who’s done me a lot of good in Paris since my arrival and I would not want to be in his situation.

“A player needs to play, to be happy on the pitch. To imagine him leaving, it’s the end of an era, but he’s a friend I’ll keep for life, even from afar, wishing him the best.”

International Champions Cup 2016 - Paris Saint-Germain v Leicester City
Lucas Moura had no future at PSG

Yet the reality is that his face did not fit for Unai Emery, who has offered the opportunity to the likes of Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler and Javier Pastore all to earn a place in his rotation as the Parisians chase glory on a multitude of fronts.

That no room whatsoever was found for Lucas is surprising.

When remembering his spell in PSG, which stretched for five years after he arrived from Brazil for around €40m in January 2013, one incident above all will be remembered.

Pitted against Marseille in a Ligue 1 match at Parc des Princes, he gathered the ball in his own half and proceeded to plough his way forward using a combination of pace and technique, bursting past innumerable defenders to find himself face-to-face with Steve Mandanda in the OM net. His finish was tame, resulting in a goalline clearance.

A moment that might have been the making of him became iconic as an episode that showed he simply had no composure when it mattered, that he was little more than a Brazilian version of Theo Walcott.

Initially, his numbers backed up that assertion. It took him nine months to score his first Ligue 1 goal, and while he still had a propensity to be rushed at crucial moments, there is no doubting that by the time he departed Paris, he was far more accomplished in front of the net than he was ever given credit for.

With each passing season, his goal tally improved, culminating in 12 during the 2016-17 campaign, achieved at a very respectable rate of around one strike per 200 minutes. Only Edinson Cavani got more.

Even this term, in which he has made only five fleeting league appearances, he has a goal and an assist to his credit – strong work considering he has not even played a cumulative total of minutes equal to one whole match.

It is easy to see, therefore, why Pochettino plundered his former club to pick up a player he will consider to be a bargain, particularly as the likes of Manchester United were lurking and a €40m fee was initially mooted.

As Lucas was paraded at Wembley at half-time as his new side defeated the one that he might have joined 2-0, he would have been aware of the fresh challenge that now faces him. Not only does he face the test of settling into England’s breakneck style of football, he must do so having effectively not played any competitive football in nine months.

It is unlikely, then, that Spurs will see the best of this potentially devastating offensive talent before the end of the season – his almost complete exile in Paris has seen to that.

However, with a little patience and love, the fee that Spurs paid – modest by modern-day Premier League standards – could hold exceptional value.

Strong, fast and technically able, Lucas is much more than the Brazilian Walcott that he has been considered to be for so long. Instead, he is a talent to be nurtured and persevered with. If Spurs can do that, he has the potential for his long-awaited explosion.

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