Very detailed analysis of Sao Paulo's young talent Lucas.
While Neymar has gotten most of the hype, Lucas has been largely off the picture despite seemingly having as much potential to succeed in the big game. Sao Paulo's young attacking midfielder has broken onto the big scene parallel to Neymar (6 months older than Lucas) whose extravagant public personality has helped to make him a superstar in Brazil as well as rest of the world even before he stepped his foot in Europe or played in a World Cup.
A player of his talent hasn't obviously gone unnoticed as far as the European big clubs are concerned but the interest in him isn't as hot as it is in Neymar. The teams who seem to have very serious interest are Inter and Chelsea as well as Liverpool. He has already established himself in the Brazilian senior team, taking part in the Copa America in summer, although only as a substitute.
There have been rumors and words from his representatives that there have been some bids rejected by Sao Paulo, but I would take them with a pinch of salt. The asking price of his currently stands at around 30 million euros, however, according to the media, Sao Paulo, who failed to qualify for the Copa Libertadores 2012, would be willing to accept less.
Report on Lucas
Personal Information (data from Transfermarkt.co.uk):
Name: Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva
Date of Birth: 13.08.1992 (age 19)
Height: 172 cm
Current Club: Sao Paulo (not 100% reliable sources claim contract runs until 30.12.2015)
National Team: Capped for senior team
Basic Playing Information:
Positions: Attacking midfielder / Forward / Wide forward
Preferred foot: Right (left also very good)
Statistics Of Last 2 Seasons/Years (data from Transfermarkt.co.uk):
2011: Sao Paulo / Brazil - 35 games played, 9 goals, 4 assists, 7 yellow cards, 1 red card, 2497 minutes played
2010: Sao Paulo - 25 games played, 4 goals, 4 assists, 4 yellow cards, 1858 minutes played
Games Watched When Making The Report:
1. Brazil - Argentina 2:0 (International friendly, 29.09.2011)
2. Sao Paulo - Avai 2:0 (Serie A, 12.11.2011)
3. Sao Paulo - Santos 4:1 (Serie A, 04.12.2011)
Individual Game Descriptions:
1. Brazil - Argentina 2:0
This was not a usual big Brazil and Argentina game. This was the "El Clasico Sudamericano", a two-legged friendly tournament between Brazil and Argentina, using the players from their local leagues. After the first leg ended 0:0, Lucas was used in a quite attacking formation of 4-3-3. Lucas was initially shown to be a central midfielder, he often switched the positions with Ronaldinho who was supposedly one of the three forwards. Brazil dominated the game and ran out deserved winners. Lucas stole the show from the likes of Neymar and Ronaldinho, being the best player on the pitch until he was taken off. He also opened the scoring with a good goal in a counter-attacking move. He was taken off after 69 minutes.
2. Sao Paulo - Avai 2:0
Sao Paulo approached the game with a 3-5-2 formation (Lucas as a "trequartista") or that was at least what the TV screen showed ahead of the game. In reality it was more of a 3-4-3 formation with Lucas given a very free role, he often switched flanks. Sao Paulo was all over the poor opponents (who finished the Serie A season at the bottom of the league). The game wasn't a particularly good viewing, slow-paced and with a lot of cheap give-aways from not just Avai but also Sao Paulo.
3. Sao Paulo - Santos 4:1
Sao Paulo had to win the game in order to have any chance of qualifying for Copa Libertadores for next season. Meanwhile Santos, with the World Club Championship ahead, was resting a lot of their stars - Danilo, Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso not playing for example. As the score suggest, Sao Paulo played a good game against Santos's reserve side. The win could've and should've been a bigger. But that didn't matter as they failed to make the necessary top 5 finish anyway due to other results. Lucas managed to score with a long-range effort with his right foot.
Analysis of Lucas:
I did not put much effort into specially picking the games on this occasion as I took the ones that I could. I had heard a decent bit about him but not much of his playing style as I have recently started to avoid watching the videos of players on a certain video streaming website to make up my mind on young players. I had actually previously tried to catch the Sao Paulo - Santos game live, but the stream was so poor that I stopped watching after about 10 minutes.
He was good in the two league games and impressive in the match against Argentina where he seemed to be near his best.
Amazing explosion and speed
One of the first notes I made was to continue checking his speed and explosion through-out the games because it seemed very impressive from the first time. And it continued to be impressive. There are a lot of fast and explosive players in the game but not many are in similar class to Lucas. When he starts running he almost instantly seems to hit top speed.
It's one of the most important parts of his game and he uses it very well, his preferred way to do it seems to be by luring defenders in towards him before putting the ball ahead into a bit of open space and then take the defenders out of game with his acceleration. However it must be noted that he doesn't require that much space to hit the ball into. He seems to hit into open space in a very calculated way, usually more than enough to get there and take the ball past the next defender who had come after the free ball. He does sometimes seem to run out of ideas once he faces more than three players because by then he has very little room and isn't as light footed anymore. On some occasions he'll have a calm head, finding a pass out of it but on some occasions he tried to take on the fourth as well and gave the ball away.
Strong and good balance
His amazing ability to pick up speed very quickly is impressive but he excels in other physical areas too. To be a great player in Europe just speed isn't enough and for Lucas, there are no problems. When you think of a fast player barely over 170 centimeters then you imagine him to be a skinny lad who cannot get into a physical battle, but Lucas is a very different story as he has very good balance and great strength.
In that way he is similar to Lionel Messi, although his dribbling style is bit less elegant and bit more explosive. Low centre of balance, great acceleration, good control of the ball and strong body build helps him come out of most challenges with either a foul or the ball.
Lacks in discipline or simply given a lot of freedom?
If there is anything that screams for a need of improvement then it must be the slight lack of discipline and "self-motivating" when playing. I understand that in San Paulo he is probably given freedom to move as much he likes and given no big defensive duties but even then you could say he doesn't try hard enough.
In Brazil national team game where he was supposedly the midfielder for about half of the playing time, he didn't really get back too much although he did had some discipline by tracking a couple of runs from deep of Argentina in the first half. But all in all his defending was too minimalistic in all games. Even the most talented need to help to defend in the modern game and that might be his big challenge when he moves to Europe as it is very likely that he is not going to be granted a free pass from defending. I wouldn't demand him to go back to his own third of the pitch, but he does need to be a bit more energetic and intelligent with his defending.
What seems to give away his slightly slack attitude without the ball was the intensity with which he opened up for passes in the attacking phase. When in middle of the field, a player needs to work hard to get himself on the ball against teams which sit quite deep, but he seems to be more about waiting for the ball to come to him. The less talented players around him showed more eagerness to offer passing options to the team-mates. While playing in South America he can afford being bit lazy against defenders who are often not that good or defences that are not well organised, but in Europe he'll have less room and such attitude might make him disappear in some games. Also he is not hundred percent ready to play big intense game for full 90 minutes as his movement starts to show signs of tiredness already at the end of the first half.
Tactical intelligence can improve
Connected to my criticism of him off the ball, his tactical intelligence is far from level with the greatest player in the world at the moment. As someone who gets tired quite quick, he needs to be more intelligent with his movement. His tactical behaviour is erratic - for example for few times he decided to burst with full speed towards the player with the ball only to being left empty handed as the player had an easy passing option out of the situation.
He can position himself better in both attacking and defending phase as well as push himself to make those necessary runs to defence and to create openings for himself and team-mates. If he can constantly do them during a game, it'd increase his effectiveness to the team. Also, he seemed like the player who always likes to go forward. When he gets the ball, most of the times he tries to get forward, even if he has to force it. A couple of times he ran into dead ends because of it and some times a forced pass or in one occasion a shot which didn't come off well. He could do with a better overview of the pitch and more calm when on the ball but that should come with time.
Uses both feet with great comfort
Onto the technical side of the game then. The most important thing here is how comfortable he is with either of his feet. When dribbling he takes touches with both feet and this makes getting the ball off him or knowing where he'll move very difficult. Although he does prefer to move into the middle of the pitch as his main instinct is to get as close as possible to the goal.
Be it the right or left foot, the touch is brilliant and the ball is never far away from his feet when he is dribbling. Controlling the ball on the first try is not a problem for him even when there is a player at his back. Another plus side that his use of the ball is efficient and while he can do some brilliant things with the ball, he does no more than necessary unlike his compatriot Neymar.
When it comes to passing he prefers to keep it simple and low - they are precise and usually very well judged but there were a few situations in which he put the ball slightly behind his team-mates. When running he seemed to notice the very free players or a pass that not many would see and usually he pulled it off - be it a Xavi-esque clever pass between players to an empty zone or a difficult to execute pass against the direction of his run to a free player. He doesn't seem to get into too many wide positions so I failed to see him crossing expect for corner situations. He didn't seem to have distinctive style how he hit his corners - sometimes low and near post, sometimes with a lot of height and to the far post.
The biggest questions remaining for me are his long-range passing and his heading ability because I didn't see either in the three games. But heading is probably something he only actually needs once every 5 games in an unimportant situation. And when it comes to long-range passing, I predict that it'll be good once I see it.
Didn't have the chemistry with anyone
Usually a very talented player tends to find great understanding on the pitch with at least some of his team-mates but in case of Lucas he didn't seem to have a player on same "wave-length" as him in any of the matches. He shined rather as a brilliant individual. I never saw him build up a dangerous pairing with a team-mate who he feeds through on goal, who he exchanges passes with or who seems to understand his movement on the pitch.
Though the players he could form such pairing with didn't seem to exist in those games, as people around him seemed to have a different playing style and quality compared to him. When he moves to a big team in Europe, he is more likely to find such team-mates. But one part of this is definitely down to his lack of tactical discipline as it is hard to know when and how he is going to move, also he needs to communicate more on the pitch.
Of other qualities, it is worth noting that he occasionally gets a rush of blood. He might lack discipline, but once he gets something on his mind, like winning the ball from a defender, he doesn't stop until he concedes a foul or gets the ball.
What level is he now:
He is ready for a Champions League side in Europe's big leagues and would probably fit in immediately in a very direct side like Napoli for example. But that doesn't mean he wouldn't fit into a team like Chelsea, Liverpool or Inter either, he has technical qualities to play possession football or constantly face teams that sit very deep too. But he might need some re-programming and take a few months to adapt to play at his best level. If he were to arrive into any of those teams in January, he might not break into starting XI immediately.
What level might he reach:
He can clearly become one of the best players in the world. There is a potential of Ballon d'Or in him but at this moment he is far from it. Even if he is starting material now and technically and physically as good as it gets, the flaws I brought out are often things that could keep a player like him from becoming a very dangerous, unpredictable player into one who puts in a brilliant performance nine games out of 10.
I honestly think if he makes the right choices and has got the ambition to be one of the best, he can also become a better and more useful player than Neymar.
If I had to pay 10 million euros rating: 9/10
He is already worth more as a player than 10 million euros and the potential would make him great value for such money. Obviously his price-tag in reality is much higher but the rating system is as it is. For his proposed value of 30 million euros, the rating would be at best 5/10 in all honesty. Signing like him would excite the fan and he has the potential to become not only someone who the fans love but also a fan magnet.
Initially I put in 10 for the rating but then I decided to lower it as he doesn't have the immediate big financial impact on a team like like Neymar would for example, he has been on the picture for a short time and hasn't gotten a chance yet on the very biggest scene.