SPIRO BLOG: Have PSG found their Messi?
By M. Spiro
Five months after capturing his €40m signature, PSG will hand Lucas Moura a Ligue 1 debut against Ajaccio tonight. Ligue1.com’s Matthew Spiro wonders what kind of impact the Parc des Princes can expect from the Brazilian prodigy.
Last year, Nasser Al-Khelaifi dismissed suggestions he might try to buy Lionel Messi from Barcelona, insisting he would much rather discover “the next Messi” than actually attempt to lure to man himself. In beating Manchester United to the signing of Lucas fromSao Paulo, the PSG owner feels he has done just that.
The 20-year-old attacking talent has had only two weeks with his new team-mates, but Carlo Ancelotti has decided he is ready to start his first league game already.
Of all PSG’s big-money signings, Lucas is the most intriguing. Zlatan Ibrahimovic inevitably brought glamour and ability, Javier Pastore raw talent, and Thiago Silva class and solidity. WhatParis’ latest exotic recruit is about to bring to the party is more mysterious and his first steps in French football will be truly fascinating.
For a start, nobody quite seems to know where he will play. Those who watched him regularly inBrazil, where he operated either on the flank or as a central attacking midfielder, rave about his speed, poise and dribbling skills – and the many video montages of Lucas available on the internet suggest this is truly an exceptional player. But these are only video clips and the Brazilian league is very different to Ligue 1. The football here is far more physical and Lucas will not get as much time on the ball.
Lucas contributed little as a second-half substitute against Qatari side Lekhwiya last week, but he looks very sure of himself off the pitch and has been eye-catchingly good in training. Indeed, the playmaker’s shooting was so impressive in a recent drill even Ibrahimovic found himself applauding.
Ancelotti will certainly not be complaining about the arrival of Lucas and the many options it opens up, but he may feel a tinge of regret about the timing. After all, the Italian had just struck on a formula that really worked. Lining up in a 4-4-2 that included the attacking quartet of Jérémy Menez, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Pastore and Ibrahimovic, PSG stormed to victories in their last four matches of 2012, scoring 12 and conceding none.
Now all of a sudden he is all but obliged to break up that winning combination. Reports in the French press suggest one of Menez or Pastore will miss out againstAjaccio, as Lucas comes in on the right flank. Menez, though, has consistently been PSG’s second best attacker in the first half of the season, striking up a good partnership with 18-goal top-scorer Ibrahimovic. Pastore, meanwhile, had just started to click again after an inconsistent spell. Neither of those players would be happy about starting 2013 on the bench.
There is also the possibility of Lucas playing as a second attacker alongside the Swede, a role that Lavezzi, Menez or even Kévin Gameiro could fill. Ancelotti was giving little away on Thursday, merely saying: “Lucas could come in for Jallet, Sakho, Thiago Silva, Alex or Maxwell.” He was joking. We think. To get the true answers to the many questions surrounding Lucas, we’ll only have to wait a little bit longer.