By Andrew Kennedy
At just 19 years old, Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva, simply known as Lucas in his native Brazil, looks destined to switch continents from South America to Europe, with Manchester United jostling with Real Madrid and Inter to secure his signature.
After beginning his career in the youth teams of Juventus and Corinthians, Lucas joined Sao Paulo in 2005, with a series of impressive performances throughout his 2010 breakthrough season ensuring that he has emerged as one of the stars of the first team – and in turn a significant transfer fee has been placed on his head.
Sir Alex Ferguson admitted earlier this week that United were keen to “bring one more signing in”, and the attacking nature of Lucas’ game, combined with a lethal shot from distance, means that he would thrive in a team which relies so heavily on the counterattack.
However, with the United midfield a clear weak point in the side last campaign, and Sir Alex looking to revamp his squad in order to reclaim the Premier League crown from Manchester City (on limited funds in comparison to their local rivals), such significant investment on relatively unproven talent must be questioned.
Lucas has at times lit up the Brazilian Serie A, his pace and trickery often producing moments of magic, yet just as frequently the youngster fails to find an end product – a return of 26 goals in 104 club appearances is hardly prolific - while he can succumb to the pressure of expectation at Sao Paulo and is known to go missing in big games.
ATTACKER | SAO PAULO
If United are to renew their claim to the top spot next season, a midfield enforcer in the Yaya Toure mould should be their priority, particularly with their options in the centre of the park limited in comparison to those which Nani, Valencia and Ashley Young provide in wide positions.
Question marks also remain over Lucas’ ability to adapt to the physical nature of the English top flight as well as his temperament, with former boss Emerson Leao’s decision to deploy him on the right flank resulting in a brief public spat between player and manager.
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The 19-year-old believes that he is more suited to a free role through the centre and, when played in his favoured position during the 2011 South American Youth Championships, Lucas bagged a hat-trick in Brazil’s emphatic 6-0 final victory over Uruguay.
With Ney Franco, manager of the 2011 Brazil youth side, taking over the reins at Sao Paulo, the player’s demands are more likely to be indulged. And although Lucas himself has admitted his desire to secure league success with his current side, a move to one of Europe’s major leagues still remains a priority for the youngster.
There is no doubt that he has the potential to become the next superstar export from Brazil, yet in order to reach such climes, further development in his home country may prove the best path. United simply don't have the funds to spend big without the promise of an immediate return.
At Old Trafford Lucas could well become the world-class talent needed to sustain United's place amongst the Premier League's top sides, but only in years to come. For now, the Red Devils have more pressing needs which must be resolved before they can once again look to the future.Follow Andrew Kennedy on