In a country as football-mad as Brazil, it can be difficult for footballers to lead a normal life. Indeed, simply going shopping or heading to the local park can result in an endless stream of requests for photos or autographs, particularly for big-name players at the country’s leading sides.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, Sao Paulo’s attacking midfield starlet Lucas has not had that problem, so far at least. “Some people who recognise me come over for a chat and others just stand there, whispering among themselves,” the 18-year-old, whose full name is Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva, told FIFA.com.
“But I don’t have to worry about going out, there’s not many people who recognise me and I’m trying to make the most of that while I can. I've not got my head around it (being famous) yet.”
After breaking into the first team at O Tricolor Paulista in 2010, by the latter stages of that year’s Brasileirao championship Lucas had nailed down a starting berth and cemented his status as one of the most promising youngsters in the domestic game. The Sao Paulo No37 will shortly have another opportunity to underline his credentials at the South American U-20 Championship 2011, set to run from 16 January to 6 February in Peru. “It’s a good chance to catch the eye,” said the player. “Everybody will be watching.”
Familiar foes join forces
What is more, Lucas’ selection for A Seleçãozinha will give him the opportunity to share a dressing room with Santos’ livewire forward Neymar. Having enjoyed a phenomenal 2010, Neymar could be just the man to advise Lucas on how to successfully make the transition from young hopeful to established senior star.
“I’ve been playing Futsal against him since we were seven years old,” said Lucas. “We used to come up against each all the time, when I was with Santa Maria de Sao Caetano and he was with various sides, including Portuguesa Santista. It’s nice to be rubbing shoulders with him again in the professional ranks and in the national set-up. These things don’t happen often.”
The Sao Paulo native, who was born on 13 August 1992, claims never to have lost against his higher-profile Brazil U-20 colleague. “It’s true: I’m still unbeaten against him. In our last meeting (a 4-3 league win for Sao Paulo on 17 October), he came over to speak about that, to ask me what I was talking about. But when I asked him if he’d ever beaten me he couldn’t remember! Anyway, it doesn’t affect our friendship.”
Having crossed swords on so many occasions, the duo will join forces for the first time in Peru under Brazil U-20 coach Ney Franco, with a view to securing their country’s involvement at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 and the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012. Buoyed by working alongside experienced performers like Rogerio Ceni, Ricardo Oliveira and Fernandao at club level, Lucas is confident of playing a full part in a successful campaign for A Seleçãozinha: “It’s going to be a good competition, alongside some outstanding players.
“Ney Franco is going to have a selection headache when it comes to picking his team. It always motivates you even more when you’re amongst players of this calibre. But if I’ve been selected, it’s because I’ve got quality too.”
Catching Menezes’ eye
“If we manage to book our place at the Olympics, those of us who helped seal qualification will have a head start,” said Lucas, who is aware of senior Seleção coach Mano Menezes’ determination to continue injecting fresh blood into his squad with a view to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. “If you’re part of the Olympic squad that can boost your chances of playing in the World Cup. One thing leads to another so I want to make a good impression.”
These long-term international possibilities could also bear fruit for Sao Paulo, with their up-and-coming midfielder unlikely to be short of motivation ahead of his first full year in O Tricolor Paulista’s first-team squad. “There’s always room for improvement,” continued Lucas, who will be joined by four of his club-mates on Seleçãozinha duty. “When you start thinking you’re good enough then it’s time to hang up your boots. There’s always someone better.”
Though clearly keen to keep his feet on the ground after his startling progress in recent months, Lucas’ level of ambition remains undiminished. “I feel like I’ve matured a lot over the past year. I’ve come on as a player and have filled out physically, performing alongside established and experienced players. Things have gone almost perfectly for me and that’s not something I’m going to forget.
“I’m disappointed we weren’t in the running for any titles, which is unusual for Sao Paulo, but from now on I want to help the team try and win every competition we enter and make my own slice of history at the club,” said Lucas, who, as the interview drew to a close, gave a refreshing take on the trappings of footballing fame. “I just want to be successful out on the pitch. Whatever happens off it is a result of that.”