Pitchside Europe

Beware the hype as PSG welcome latest big-money signing


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From Leonardo and Rai to Ronaldinho and Thiago Silva, Paris Saint-Germain fans have seen some great Brazilians at the Parc des Princes over the last two decades. They have seen some pretty bad ones too - think Everton Santos. But now there is excitement about the prospect of witnessing latest recruit Lucas Moura in action in the French capital.

Nearly five months after agreeing to a 40 million-euro transfer from São Paulo, the 20-year-old Brazilian international midfielder finally set foot in Paris last week. The arrival of a talent who believes he can become "the best player in the world" will increase confidence among PSG fans that their team can go on from their current position at the top of the table and win a title that has evaded them since 1994.

Lucas may be young, but he comes across as a supremely confident person. In any case, the presence of several compatriots in the dressing room should help him settle in to his new surroundings. The current squad contains Thiago Silva, Alex and Maxwell, as well as Thiago Motta, the Brazilian-born Italian international. However, another Brazilian, Nenê, seems certain to leave this month after being rewarded for two hugely impressive campaigns with little more than a bit-part role this season.

Thanks to their Brazilian connection, PSG managed to convince Lucas to join them despite interest from Manchester United. He was unveiled as a Paris player last week in Doha, where his new teammates were training during the Ligue 1 winter break. At his first press conference, Lucas expressed that desire to become the best player in the world, while coach Carlo Ancelotti took a leaf out of Harry Redknapp's book to describe him as a "top player."

"I could have signed for Manchester United, but PSG were in for me too," the 20-year-old recently told TF1. "I spoke a lot with (former player and current sporting director) Leonardo, and he convinced me. I never spoke directly with (Sir Alex) Ferguson, but Leonardo and I had been in contact with each other for more than a year. He said I could finish the season at São Paulo and that was decisive in helping me make up my mind."

Lucas played his final game for São Paulo on December 12 in the second leg of the Copa Sudamericana final against Tigre of Argentina, scoring once and setting up the other in a 2-0 victory that saw the Brazilians win the South American equivalent of the Europa League. After a stunning rise to prominence over the last three years, he received a remarkable send-off from the São Paulo fans at the Morumbi stadium that night.

After arriving in Qatar, he made his first appearance in a PSG shirt as a half-time substitute in the 5-1 friendly win against local side Lekhwiya. However, he played no part in the 4-3 French Cup win at amateur side Arras on Sunday, and will now hope to make his competitive debut in PSG's first league game of 2013, at home to Ajaccio on Friday.

"He has the qualities needed to play and make an impact in Europe," says Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the star of the first half of the season for PSG. "Nevertheless, he will need time to adapt to his new life off the pitch, to the city. A lot is expected of Lucas and he will need to be patient but I am not worried for him."

Capable of playing anywhere across the midfield or the attack, it remains to be seen where Lucas will feature at his new club. "I would like to play alongside Ibrahimovic," says the man himself. "I usually play on the right wing but I will adapt to the demands of the coach and the needs of the team."

Ancelotti will surely find a place for him somewhere in his line-up. Meanwhile, PSG fans are already salivating at the thought of seeing their new star in action. Capable of beating his marker with the most outrageous of tricks, and with a powerful shot to boot, he certainly has the ability to become a real star in the French and European game. The slow progress of Javier Pastore should serve as a lesson to fans who expect too much too soon, but PSG's rivals both at home and in the Champions League will not be looking forward to coming up against Lucas Moura in the months ahead.

Andy Scott

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