Brazilian forward Lucas has proved an instant success in his first season at Gamba Osaka, as he spearheaded the club's march to the AFC Champions League title. His three goals during Gamba's 5-0 aggregate win over Adelaide United in the two-legged final turned plenty of heads in Asia. His scoring prowess was already no secret in Japan, however, where he scored 48 goals in 120 matches over four seasons at FC Tokyo before moving to slick-passing Gamba.
The Brazilian arrived in Japan in 2004 after a handful of games for South American giants Cruzeiro and Corinthians, and a spell with French club Rennes. Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com, Lucas talks about winning the AFC Champions League, and the possibility of facing Manchester United at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2008.
FIFA.com: The FIFA Club World Cup is almost upon us. How did it feel when Gamba qualified by defeating Adelaide United to win the AFC Champions League?
Lucas: I felt a mixture of delight and gratification. It was the first time I had won the Asian Champions League, and it was a fantastic achievement for Gamba. There was a flood of emotions when we were crowned champion.
As a Brazilian, you're probably slightly disappointed that a Brazilian team will not be representing the South American confederation.
Yes, it is a shame that I won't get the chance to play against my countrymen.
Which team do you think will be the toughest opponent in Japan?
It has to be Manchester United. That being said, Pachuca and Liga de Quito came out on top of their powerful confederations, so they are obviously quality teams. All the teams will be formidable.
Gamba's first game will be against the winner of the match between Adelaide United and New Zealand's Waitakere United.
Adelaide is a very physical team, and their defence is very solid. But I think the Gamba players really stood up and showed our strength [in the final].
If Gamba win their opening match, your next opponent will be Manchester United. How will you cope with the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic?
If it came to a test of physical strength, I'd be in real trouble! But there is nothing to be afraid of. Manchester United is one of the top clubs in the world, so if I get the chance to play against them, I'm just going to give it my best shot.
Several Manchester United players understand Portuguese, don't they?
That's right. Anderson is Brazilian, and Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani are Portuguese so we can communicate. I only know a few words of English, but I did pick up some French while I was playing in France. Manchester United have a French player so I might have a chat with him. It would be easier to take them on in French or Portuguese!
So what would you say if you wanted to rile the Manchester United players up?
Of course I was just joking about taking them on like that! I will have a chat with them before and after the game. But as soon as the game starts, the pleasantries will end. I will prepare as well as I can and give it everything on the pitch.
Although Brazil will not have a team at this FIFA Club World Cup, Brazilian teams have a fine record at the tournament. What is the secret to Brazil's success?
Well, by most accounts, European clubs are more skilful [than other clubs]. So if they play to their ability, the European clubs are likely to win. But Sao Paulo FC and Sport Club Internacional defied heavily tipped opponents and produced some good results. That is the strength of Brazilian teams. Powerhouses such as Manchester United and Pachuca also have the pressure that comes with being expected to win. But there is no pressure on Gamba. We are just going to play the way we always do.
Do you have any personal goals at this tournament?
All I want to do is contribute for my team. If I score, that will help the team. Goals are good for the team, and they are good for me personally. That's the frame of mind I have when I play.
Finally, how about a few words for Gamba's fans and football fans around the world?
Gamba Osaka's fans are brilliant. They always get right behind us and are very passionate. I hope they will support us with their usual enthusiasm as we compete in the Club World Cup for the first time. I'm looking forward to showing Gamba's wonderful style of football to fans around the world!