Though there are still nearly three years to go until the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, such has been the rapid rise of Sao Paulo’s attacking midfield starlet Lucas that he is already heavily backed to feature for the host nation. The player's popularity is understandable, however, given his seamless adaption to life with the seniors, for whom he made his debut in March this year and scored his first goal on 28 September against arch-rivals Argentina.
Yet Lucas himself insisted there is still plenty of football to play before Brazil 2014 and that there are no shortcuts - this despite the now 19-year-old clearly being on the fast track to success. This year alone he has carved out a place in O Tricolor Paulista’s first team, played a key part in Brazil’s win at January/February’s South American U-20 Championship and earned selection for Mano Menezes’ senior Seleção.
In conversation with FIFA.com, the player, who is known for his explosive attacking bursts and elusiveness on the field, revealed how he is coping with his new status, his early days with Menezes’ Amarelinha squad and his aim of lifting silverware with Sao Paulo before any potential transfer to Europe.
FIFA.com: Shortly before you joined up with Brazil’s squad for this year’s U-20 Sudamericano, you told us about how fast your career was moving. Well, having been one of the stars of the show in that triumph, which guaranteed a place at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament 2012, and made your senior Brazil debut, are you still able to go out without being mobbed?
Lucas: It’s true, there have been lots of changes in a short space of time – everything’s happening very fast for me in my career. In less than a year so many things have occured in my life but even so, yes I’m still able to walk around the city. I’m pretty relaxed about it. A lot of people recognise me, come and take photos and ask for autographs but I’m happy to tend to them all. I’ve got no problem at all with that.
How have you found being involved with A Seleção under Mano Menezes, who has been attempting to find a blend of experienced performers and rising young stars?
It’s been really marvellous. I was part of the U-20 squad and we won the (continental) title, and I’d barely gone back to Sao Paulo before I was called up to the senior national side, which has always been my dream. I just have to be thankful every day and keeping working hard, because in football you have to prove you’re good enough every single day. And I also try to make the most of every time I’m called up to A Seleção, by spending time with more experienced players and talking with them. So I have to make sure I keep doing my very best for Sao Paulo to keep my place in the national team.
When it came to the friendly game against Scotland, which was your first call-up to the senior squad, did you feel you had a realistic chance of getting on the pitch?
Look, I’m not going to deny that I was hoping for that. Yes, I was hoping for my chance to be involved and show what I can do. I had to be ready for that moment. I couldn’t sit there thinking I wasn’t going to come on – I had to be ready and optimistic about my chances of playing a part. It was a fantastic experience. It might sound like a cliché, but when I was listening to the national anthem being played I thought about my family and my boyhood dream (of representing Brazil). It’s a feeling you can’t put into words, but it’s one I wanted to really savour.
Well, you certainly proved you were ready to seize your chance. Right from the off you began leaving defenders in your wake, much like you do regularly in Brazilian football. Was it as simple as it looked?
You inevitably get butterflies in your stomach; you can’t help feeling tense and anxious. But once I took to the field I just tried to do my best, play the way I know how and prove why I was there. That meant getting on the ball and running at defenders using my bursts of acceleration, which are the main feature of my game.
Brazil 2014 is still three years away. Do you think it’s too early to be thinking that far ahead or is it unavoidable in your situation?
No, I don’t think it’s too early. People have to dream, to have faith, but there aren’t any shortcuts either. I’ve got lots of competitions to play with my club side first, before we even know which national teams will qualify for the tournament, and all of us have to do our best in every one of those competitions to be in with a chance of playing at the World Cup.
Sao Paulo are currently in the thick of the race for the Brazilian championship and the finish line is drawing ever closer. How have the club’s new signings fitted in and what are the team’s chances of winning the title?
The squad’s been strengthened by the arrival of players brought in to help the team, which is important since the championship race is so long. You’re always going to get problems with injuries and suspensions, so it’s important to have a squad packed with players who can come in and do a job. Sao Paulo are strong and very focused on what they have to do. We really want to win the title.
Over the course of this year, a number of clubs have shown an interest in acquiring your signature. How did you handle this new development in your career?
I’m happy that big European clubs are interested in me, as it shows I’ve been doing my job well. But I’m still very young and I’ve got a lot to learn. Right now my mind is fully focused on Sao Paulo. I want to win titles here, write my page in the club’s history and only then, yes, will I think about a move abroad.