Tom Webber: Lucas final chance for Sao Paulo glory
Lucas Moura could be forgiven for glancing an envious eye at his Brazilian international team-mate, Neymar. The Santos superstar has amassed a wealth of individual and club honours since his emergence in 2009, while Lucas' trophy cabinet remains comparatively bare.
The fact is that the Sao Paulo-born youngster has few accolades to show for his time with his home-town club. Yet it is Lucas, and not Neymar, who will be first to cross the Atlantic Ocean when he moves to Paris Saint-Germain in January, and Wednesday's Copa Sudamericana final offers him the chance to supply a parting gift to the Sao Paulo faithful.
Speculation surrounding the young forward reached its peak in the summer of 2012. Stories of his agent and parents in meetings at both the Santiago Bernabeu and Old Trafford suggested a big money move was on the cards, with Manchester United the favourites for his signature. But with negotiations for a €30m transfer fee ongoing, money-bags PSG swooped in with an unbeatable €40m+ offer for his services.
It was a price that the Premier League side could not compete with and so Lucas headed for the French capital. For a player who was yet to achieve anything of note in his career, the transfer looked like a gamble. PSG were simply paying for potential.
But that potential has since borne fruit, with Lucas seemingly spurred on to another level. In the second half of the Brasileirao he was a rapidly improving player, enhancing upon the skills that had already drawn the interest from European quarters. The creativity of Jadson and goal-scoring ability of Luis Fabiano have lifted the pressure upon him this year, and the 20-year-old has blossomed. Without the weight of expectation that had been so heavy on his shoulders, Lucas has grown and matured.
His goal was to leave his side ready to contest the Copa Libertadores once more, something which he has already achieved through their league finish. But now he can go one better and leave the club with their first piece of silverware since 2008.
Held to a 0-0 draw with Tigre in Argentina, the Tricolor just need to win at home in order to lift the Copa Sudamericana. It is something that the fans will be quietly confident of given their 5-0 thumping of defending champions Universidad de Chile in the quarter-finals. A fully rested squad should be capable of defeating the struggling Buenos Aires side.
Lucas has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of other club heroes who lifted silverware before moving on to European pastures. Amoroso and Cicinho helped the side past Liverpool in the 2005 Club World Cup while, in an almost identical path to the 20-year-old, World Cup winner Rai achieved Libertadores glory in 1993 before transferring to the Parc des Princes that summer.
It could be the perfect farewell. If Lucas can play free of the pressures that put to question whether he was worth the sort of money PSG outlaid, then he has every chance of an ideal goodbye to the Morumbi.
Guest written for Sambafoot by Tom Webber—@thwebber