With all the infinitely disseminated and often times meaningless histrionics that encircle the game of football – Twitter goal celebrations, dressing room scuffles, players dancing on Snapchat or just about anything that is referred to afterwards followed by the word ‘gate’ – it’s terribly easy to be distanced from certain moments in the game that remind you why you put up with all of the extraneous nonsense in the first place.
Lucas Moura, a player London-bound, set to join the ranks at Tottenham, once provided a special moment of his own that brought it all back to basics, a simple act which invoked complicated emotions, that kind of moment that occurs where you can place your finger on it and state this is why the sport is loved.
It was March 2014 and PSG were hosting Marseille at the Parc de Princes, a fixture referred to in French football as ‘Le Classique’. Early in the first period, PSG were pushing out after a Marseille attack. The ball fell to Lucas deep in his own half. He side-stepped the first challenge with ease, then did something you’ve likely never seen before in a game of professional football.
The boosters exploded into life, and he was off. But not down either flank of the pitch, where he normally operates. Lucas, a player who has earned just three international caps since the beginning of 2015, screamed right down the centre of the field, avoiding challenge two, three and four via his sheer pace. With each man beaten, the crowd roared louder, urging their player further and further and, suddenly, with the defensive line broken, he was on his own, dashing into open space with just the goalkeeper ahead of him.
Unfortunately it was his final touch that took him into the penalty area which denied him what would have been an astonishing goal. The ball travelled too far from his pumping feet and with the keeper rushing out he could only manage a weak stub that was on target but didn’t have the legs, and got cleared by one of the backtracking defenders.
It was a moment of sheer brilliance, and it would be counter-productive, though technically logical, to put that joyous move down to the shocking lack of reaction from the Marseille players. Why focus on the negatives when the positives are so glorious?
Granted it’s been four years since that match, and with time – and in Lucas’s case, the lack of game-time – comes the withering of physical prowess. But the Brazilian – still with plenty of juice in the tank and lots to prove at 25 and with a World Cup on the horizon – represents the kind of player Tottenham have been lacking since Mauricio Pochettino has come in and re-invented the side.
For all of Tottenham’s attacking talent in Deli Alli, Christian Eriksen, Eric Lamela and Heung-Min Son, and with Harry Kane consistently scoring and further proving himself to be one of Europe’s finest strikers, there still remains room in the side for a true winger to be implemented. There is arguably no-one in Tottenham’s frontline who has the consistent ability and natural pace to burst past players in situations where defences sit deep and are determined not to budge.
Pochettino acquired the services of Moussa Sissoko from Newcastle in August 2016 following the Frenchman’s impressive performances during Euro 2016, and he was comfortably one of the flops of the season, and maybe he could even out-do any of this season’s summer signings in terms of sheer flopability. He has scored one goal since he joined Spurs.
Pochettino has certainly tried to keep the faith but the former Newcastle man simply hasn’t delivered. He offers little to absolutely nothing with each game he participates in. He does everything you don’t require in a natural winger.
Lucas is joining Spurs due his lack of first-time football at Paris Saint-Germain. Normally this might suggest his ability is surplus to requirements by the manager. But it’s really been down to bad luck, as the French league leaders have invested in some of Europe’s top attacking players over the years. Angel Di Maria joined after his unhappy spell at Manchester United and has for the most part looked back at his best. Julian Draxler joined in January 2017 and has primary operated on the flanks, pushing Lucas further down the pecking order.
And last summer, the Qatari owners spent exorbitantly to bring in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, whose arrivals at the club have effectively spelt the end for Lucas.
Once the transfers of the latter two were confirmed, it was inevitable PSG would begin to listen to offers for Lucas.
If Lucas does head to Tottenham, it would be a very positive signing for the club and for the player, both of whom perhaps need a bit of a lift this season. If things don’t improve for Spurs, there is a danger this season could fizzle out, with victory against a lacklustre Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage the only thing to look back on with any great fondness.
Lucas would also be linking back up with former PSG full-back Serge Aurier, who joined Spurs in the summer, and with the two linking together on the right-flank, it could inject some badly needed pace into this Tottenham side, who could let even a top four spot slip by them if they don’t improve.
Arsenal look about ready to announce Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as their latest signing, and with Henrikh Mkhitaryan ready to step in and remind viewers of his talent that was perhaps squandered at United, the Gunners could have a very strong second half to the season.
Lucas won’t guarantee Tottenham a top four finish, and there is no tangible proof that he will send them deeper into the Champions League. But he’s a player who loves to play and has much to fight for. He wasn’t included in Filipe Scolari’s 2014 World Cup squad and there’s every chance he might not be included in this year’s competition either.
But even though he has his limitations, for Lucas it could be argued that the competition to get in the Brazil side, much like what happened at PSG, is simply too good; that those ahead of him are some of the best players in the world, and not much can be done to help that.
At Tottenham, however, Lucas would have the chance to offer his services to a team that need some of what he’s got; a lot of pace, plenty of passion and the willingness to put his head down and glide across the grass with a frightening yet graceful speed that not a lot of players in Europe possess.