Lucas Moura: A January Risk Worth Taking

 • by Andrew Gibney
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Barcelona and their £142million move for Philippe Coutinho has blown the January transfer window wide open.

Usually the top clubs stay out of the murky winter business, leaving it to clubs trying to push away from the relegation battle or the likes of Leicester City, Stoke City and West Ham United with new bosses in place.

As the top six battle for the crucial Champions League places, well, everyone except runaway leaders Manchester City, it feels like they will be tempted to pull out some big deals.

Ever since he signed for Paris Saint-Germain, Brazilian winger Lucas Moura has been linked with a move away from the French capital.

Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson were keen before his decided on Ligue 1 and in the past the 25-year-old has been both an Arsenal and Liverpool transfer target.

But it’s Tottenham Hotspur who are in for Lucas this window, with the Brazilian finally ready to find a new home as he holds on to hope of a national team recall ahead of the summer’s World Cup.

Yet, the London club have apparently been dealt a blow in their pursuit, with the former Santos youngster only willing to move to England for a deal involving Manchester United according to a report on French TV show Telefoot.

Who is Lucas Moura?

PSG spent £34million on the winger back in 2012, delighted to have won the race for the hotly tipped youngster.

However, every season since he arrived has been touted as the one in which Lucas explodes and finally establishes himself as one of European football’s brightest stars.

To make matters worse, before the French side moved for Neymar and Monaco teenager Kylian Mbappé, he actually finished last season with 12 league goals, his best return to date.

Adding to the attack, Unai Emery has had little space to hand Moura opportunities and after five substitute appearances, he has played just 76 minutes in the league this season.

Lucas has a fight on his hands. Not only to get back into the PSG side but also into the Brazil squad which has been guided to the 2018 World Cup by Tite.

Domestically, it’s safe to say he has lost the battle. Yet a move this month could give him hope internationally.

The winger’s last appearance for the Selecao came in 2016 when he played 14 minutes against Ecuador in the Copa América Centenario. Without more time on the pitch, it will be extremely difficult for Lucas force his way back into the thoughts of the national team boss.

A move this winter, consistent football and improved performances could be exactly what he needs to get his career back on track.

What are Lucas’ strengths?

Initially playing as a typical winger, Lucas has all the attributes you would hope for. He’s fast, nearly as quick with as he is without the ball. He can face up and drive at defenders, beating them on either side.

His final ball isn’t as impressive as you would hope, with 50 assists in 229 games. In the league, with 39, he has as many assists as goals. That means he is setting up a team-mate once every 4.5 games. You’d be lucky if he contributed to eight assists per season if he played 38 games.

He has become somewhat of an all-rounder. More comfortable using his speed and movement to cut inside and threaten through the middle. Last season he averaged 2.4 shots, 2.7 successful dribbles and 2.1 key passes per 90 minutes.

Undoubtedly, Lucas is a threat in and around the box, he has even developed a tendency to pop up at the far post and does very well to get on the end of crosses.

What are Lucas’ weaknesses?

The biggest issue with his ability has always been his consistency and killer touch through on goal.

All too often, his best runs, greatest moves and positive play is scuppered by a poor touch, weak finish or wrong pass. He will get it right at times, but not as often as you’d hope.

To score his 34 league goals, he’s attempted 258 shots, that’s a conversion rate of 13 per cent. For context, from the 2012/13 season until now, Everton’s new signing Theo Walcott has attempted 250 shots on goal, scoring 39 times. Giving him a conversation rate of 15.6 per cent. 

When compared to Heung-Min Son, Moura does well. He completed more dribbles and more key passes per 90 minutes during the 2016/17 season as well as having a higher xG+xA90 score.

How much would Lucas cost?

French side Nantes tried to act quickly to sign the Brazilian from the Ligue 1 leaders. President Waldemar Kita is trying to agree a loan deal, something which apparently the Parisians are open to.

“PSG told me: “No problem.” But it is with the player and his agent that things are more complicated,” he told L’Equipe at the start of January. “They surely have offers from big clubs but, personally, I think it would be nice if he stayed in France because to leave for abroad in January is always difficult.”

Lucas is pushing for a permanent deal, rather than an opportunity to gain vital minutes. It’s difficult to put a number on what PSG would expect for their forward. He is contracted until 2019, so can talk about a free deal in just 12 months.

However, with his age and still holding out hope of making a difference, the way the current market stands, they could still look to make a profit on what they paid six years ago.

Anything from £30-40million could be enough to seal a deal, which is why clubs are hoping for a loan. Get him in and decide whether he is worth further outlay.

Should Premier League clubs move for Lucas?

The earlier Walcott comparisons are not too far off the mark. A wide man, originally a winger, who can play anywhere across the attack and someone who needs a move to rekindle his career.

Lucas has picked up much of the same criticism about his ability to take his game to the next level and become a star. Walcott has missed his chance, whereas the Brazilian still has hope on his side.

At this stage of his career, with what he has shown so far, he is not the player to come into the team and be a star, but he can offer another dimension to your attack.

Lucas offers another option in the final third and if he can find consistency, he could be just enough to tip the Champions League battle in the direction of whichever club he joins.

If the price is right, or he can be signed on loan, Lucas would be a good and positive January signing. However, don’t expect a game-changer who will single-handedly take a game by the scruff of the neck.

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