Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva is another in a long line of highly regarded Brazilian attacking players to be highly regarded throughout Europe. The Sao Paulo youngster was named the best player in last year's U20 South American championships (a tournament in which Neymar was also involved) and has since gone on to become a fixture in the senior national team for Brazil. If his agent (Wagner Ribiero, also the agent of Neymar) is to be believed Chelsea have already made an unsuccessful bid of 30 million Euros to acquire the services of the young midfielder. With that in mind, I thought now would be a good time to take a closer look at a player that will undoubtedly come up repeatedly in the coming months.
Lucas is 19 at the moment, and will be turning 20 next August. While that means he'd never qualify as "homegrown" by the Premier League standards, it does mean he'd be considered U21 for the remainder of this season and the following two. Like Romeu, Lucas would provide the club with additional roster flexibility for the next several years as they adjust to the new (relatively speaking) rules. He'd also fit in the current model of buying high ceiling players who will likely give us more than one good contract.
Positionally, Lucas is very similar to several other players whom Chelsea are very high on. He can play just about anywhere in the attack, often being deployed on either wing or in an advanced central midfield role. Like our own Juan Mata, Lucas tends to be the most effective when he's able to drift from the wing to the center (and vice versa). Unlike Mata, Lucas tends to gravitate more towards the right side of the pitch. He stands about 5'8" but has a relatively strong build, so while he'll never likely be a force in the air he certainly appears strong enough to handle the physical nature of the Premier League.
The youngster is most noted for having sensational pace, change of direction, and out of this world dribbling skills when attacking. He's shown a knack for finding the goal, but he's occasionally criticized for being a bit too selfish in his style of play. He generally prefers to take on the attackers rather than play the quick pass to a teammate, but being as young and as much more talented than his teammates as he is this really doesn't strike me as unexplainable. Some adjustment to his style will clearly be required as his competition improves in Europe but it's nothing he should be expected to struggle mightily with. Just so you get a look at him, here's a look at his performance against Gremio earlier this season:
There's obviously a lot to like in there, but there are also some spots where he clearly shows a lack of polish. Next up is his game against Santa Cruz:
This one is another good example of the amazing talent combined with a little late passing. Here's some highlights against probably the best club side in South America, Santos FC:
That goal pretty much sums up the entire package you can get with Lucas, but once again he tends to spend a lot of time on the ball. Finally we'll have his game with the national side against Argentina (mute this one if you are at work):
Personally speaking, I rate Lucas Moura right up there with Eden Hazard and Mario Goetze. He's certainly a riskier prospect than either of them due to the respective level of competition he's faced, but he's also got the best physical tools of the three and probably the highest potential upside. As Ribiero has stated, Sao Paulo have no intention to sell Lucas before the summer. Whether or not you believe that is up for debate, but to pry him away in January will probably take some relatively silly money. The Brazilian league is really exploding with TV revenues, so Brazilian clubs are certainly finding it easier to pay their young stars much more and keep them as their transfer values skyrocket.
I don't think there is any doubt that Moura will eventually be making his way across the pond to Europe, but the longer he stays in Brazil the more his price tag is going to rise. If our scouts feel that he's destined for greatness, a preemptive signing allowing Sao Paulo to keep him for the spring may be a very sound move. He does have a buyout clause in his contract, but at £67 million I doubt it becomes a factor. Also of note, we have done some business with Sao Paulo in the last year (Piazon) and we have a good working relationship with Ribiero. This will be a name that starts to pop up alot in the next few weeks with very good reason. Just don't expect a bargain with Moura, he's going to cost the club that eventually signs him an awful lot of money.