Manchester United have reportedly lodged their second bid this week for Sao Paulo phenom Lucas Moura. Brazilian outlet Lance! ran the story on its website late Friday afternoon and various other reports have the Premier League giants already in talks with the player, who is widely regarded as one of Brazil’s brightest starlets.
As a bit of a backgrounder, Lucas Moura burst onto the international scene at the 2011 South American Youth Championship where his four goals, including a hat-trick in the final against Uruguay, were good for second on the tournament ledger behind Santos forward Neymar.
That 2011 season was the high point of the 19-year-old’s career so far— his 13 goals in 43 matches in all competitions marking him out as a young, versatile forward to watch in Brazilian football. That said, his development has, if not stalled, perhaps slowed a bit in recent months, although the makings of a superstar are still there for all to see. The natural talent is undeniable.
Lucas, who joined Corinthians as a 10-year-old under the name “Marcelinho” in 2002 (there are several Marcelinhos in Brazilian football—a tribute to Corinthians great Marcelinho Carioca), was sold to local rivals Sao Paulo in 2005 after being deemed surplus to requirements at a club that had just been taken over by Kia Joorabchian’s MSI group.
He made his professional debut for Sao Paulo in 2010 and quickly attracted interest from Manchester United, Real Madrid, Lazio, Malaga, Marseille, PSG, both Milan sides, Chelsea and Liverpool. Chelsea inquired about him last summer and Liverpool made a somewhat ridiculous bid of £9 million last November.
United, who have already signed Nick Powell and Shinji Kagawa ahead of next season, are thought to have made a £20 million bid for Lucas Moura earlier this week and on Friday increased their offer to nearly £26 million.
The reports out of Brazil have triggered no shortage of questions about the player, his contract situation and United’s interest in him. Following are some answers to the most popular queries.
What, exactly, did the Lance! article say?
The piece (and you can read it here: http://www.lancenet.com.br/sao-paulo/Manchester-oferece-milhoes-Lucas-Paulo_0_736126498.html) stated that United had tabled a €33 million bid for Lucas Moura, roughly €6 million more than had been previously offered by Inter Milan. It also confirmed that representatives of the Red Devils are still in Sao Paulo awaiting a response. The position of the Brazilian club is that the player would prefer to stay, although given the sort of money on offer they would be foolish to disregard an opportunity to cash in on their asset.
What is the player’s contract situation?
Sao Paulo own 70 per cent of Lucas Moura’s playing rights, with the player retaining the other 30 per cent. A deal cannot be completed unless both the Brazilian club and the player’s father proceed in concert, but this is normal business in South American football. Now, Lucas does have a £67 million buyout clause written into his contract (agreed after his heroics at the South America Youth Championship), but Sao Paulo are still free to accept a lower bid should they choose to do so.
What sort of player is he?
At his best, Lucas Moura is a versatile attacker who can intimidate the opposition with his speed and dribbling ability. He can play across the forward line but prefers to make most of his runs from wide areas. He also tends to drop deep to pick up the ball—something that that can be seen as either an expression of confidence or selfishness. Indeed, he has often been criticised for failing to use his teammates.
This much, however, is certain: Lucas possesses that rare mixture of magic and arrogance that makes his talent such an appealing cocktail. He is still a few seasons away from full maturity (which is why it’s hard to predict a regular position for him) but is the sort of player who will provide something special several times over the course of a match.
Who would you compare him to?
Lucas is another of the hybrid attacking forwards being rolled off the Brazilian production line with regularity these days. Hulk, Neymar and Alexandre Pato offer similar versatility, although none of the three can be said to be an accurate likeness.
Perhaps the best comparison can be made with long-time Botafogo winger and Brazil international Jairzinho. A right-sided attacker who liked to dribble the ball into the goalmouth at speed, Jairzinho was one of the stars of the 1970 World Cup and his goal against Uruguay—scored after he dribbled past two defenders and nutmegged another—is pure Lucas Moura. Even their statures (5 feet, 8 inches) are identical, and when Lucas represents Brazil at the Olympics later this month he’ll be wearing Jairzinho’s number seven shirt.
Where would he fit into the United team?
Assuming a deal is concluded, it would be ambitious to expect Lucas Moura to walk right into the Manchester United starting XI. For one thing, he is still too raw. For another, United don’t need him to make an instant impact. And that’s good. A year of seasoning in English football would be ideal given the vastly different, more individualistic style the player was used to in Brazil. There will be a learning curve.
As far as his position is concerned, Lucas can play in any of the “3” positions in a 4-2-3-1, although preferably in the middle or on the right. He also functions well in the right attacking role of a 4-3-3.
Do United need him?
Yes. They haven’t been the same since the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lucas Moura can help replace some of the magic that went out the door when the Portugal captain left for Real Madrid.
Still, it’s worth repeating that the player (he’ll turn 20 next month) should not be expected to hit the ground running at Old Trafford. His confidence and physical strength will serve him well in England, but the Premier League has never been a welcoming division for natural dribblers and he’ll no doubt take some time to adjust to the new, rather more physical, on-field environment.
Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer