A heart to heart led to Lucas Moura’s magic: Mauricio Pochettino convinced the frustrated midfielder of his worth before he scored a hat-trick in incredible Champions League win
- Mauricio Pochettino told Lucas Moura to be patient when he became frustrated
- More used to playing in a central role, his boss preferred him in a wide position
- Moura scored a hat-trick which sent Spurs to the Champions League final
After Lucas Moura’s magic show in Amsterdam, Tottenham will be thanking their lucky stars they did not lose him last summer.
The Brazilian only started twice in the Premier League last season after a £25million move from Paris Saint-Germain in January and had grown frustrated.
Having been marginalised following the arrivals of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in Paris, the forward would not stand for another prolonged spell on the sidelines. His agent started agitating, worrying Mauricio Pochettino and Daniel Levy.
Lucas Moura scored the hat-trick which sent Tottenham to the Champions League final
Mauricio Pochettino was elated after the game, which set up an all-English final with Liverpool
Pochettino did not sign a single player last summer, but as it turns out, keeping Moura in north London was the best piece of business Tottenham did.
Moura’s concerns, one of which was Pochettino’s preference for utilising him in wide positions rather than in his preferred role through the middle, were allayed by the Spurs manager.
Harry Kane’s position as Tottenham’s undisputed No 1 central striker means the role is rarely available, but Pochettino explained to Moura that his searing pace meant he was far more effective being deployed on one of the flanks and cutting in.
Pochettino told Moura to remain patient. The Premier League is a tough school, the boss explained to the 26-year-old. It takes time to acclimatise.
The Tottenham manager’s diplomacy paid instant dividends, with Moura scoring three goals in the opening three Premier League games, including a dazzling double that put Manchester United to the sword at Old Trafford.
His 15 goals in 48 Spurs appearances represents a promising return for a player experiencing his first full season in English football.
Lucas Moura has endured periods without scoring, but his boss gave him a heart to heart
He has endured unflattering spells, too, and been back on the bench more than he’d like. He has gone through periods without scoring. Prior to his euphoric hat-trick in the Dutch capital, he had not scored for six matches. At one stage this season, Moura went 10 games without scoring.
The burden of expectation is nothing new. He has had it since his teenage years. Heralded as a shining light of Brazilian football, he has sometimes flattered to deceive.
When he’s good, he can be unstoppable, but he has a tendency to go missing in matches. Moura is now entering the prime years of his career, though, and in Pochettino he has a manager to coax the best out of him.
To think, he could have joined Manchester United in 2012. Sir Alex Ferguson wanted Moura, who was 19 at the time, and made three offers for the then Sao Paulo winger.
However Moura eventually joined PSG, who were prepared to pay more for the South American and meet his agents’ extortionate financial demands that Ferguson and then chief executive David Gill simply weren’t prepared to meet.
Moura impressed Sir Alex Ferguson seven years ago, and he is now living up to that promise
Ferguson wrote in his 2015 book Leading: ‘Right towards the end of my time at United we were pursuing Lucas Moura, the immensely talented right winger who, at the time, was playing in his native Brazil for Sao Paulo.
‘We offered £24m for him, which was upped to £30m and again to £35m, but PSG signed him for £45m. David Gill and I were just not prepared to go to those sorts of levels.’ Moura is now realising the promise Ferguson saw seven years ago.
‘It is the greatest night of my career,’ he said. ‘Three goals in the semi-final of the Champions League is unbelievable. It is an emotional day. Football is amazing, it gives you this special moment.’
The big concern for Moura now will be that he returns to the bench for the final against Liverpool, with Kane returning from his ankle injury in time to lead the line against the Reds in Madrid.
Moura said the right things: — ‘I am happy to have him back’ — but he will be hoping a hat-trick in the semi-final means he starts the final.
If not, Pochettino could have further reasons to be fearful. Whatever the future holds, they will both always have that night in Amsterdam.