If Tottenham‘s season were to be transformed into a crap soap opera and the players and coaching staff into the actors (no ‘Amazon already did that’ jokes here, please), the main storyline in recent episodes would be a scandalous love triangle.
Who does Harry really love? Who will he choose? Is he going to leave Sonny for Gareth?
Bubbling under the surface, though, there would be a sub-plot. And the focus of it would be far more wholesome.
It would be the tale of lost boy come good. With hard graft and a bit of mentoring from cantankerous uncle Jose, once-forgotten Lucas Moura would finally be flourishing into the successful man we all knew he had the potential to become.
This weekend’s episode against Crystal Palace was just the latest demonstration of how Moura’s work is paying off.
While Kane’s assist for Bale, his magnificent goal and his late rekindling of his relationship with Son might be getting most of the attention, the game would have been very different without Tottenham’s turbocharged Brazilian, who petrified and confounded the Palace defence from start to finish.
The match started slowly, both teams struggling to make an impact on the other for the opening 20 minutes. But Lucas soon decided he’d had enough of waiting around.
With a quarter of the match gone, Roy Hodgson’s team were lackadaisically playing the ball out from defence and Lucas pounced like a Jack Russell terrier going after rats in a barn. Luka Milivejovic was closed down rapidly, the ball nicked off his toe by the Spurs No.27.
— Mourinho’s Spurs ⚪ (@watchtheMou) March 7, 2021
With Spurs up in numbers, the loose ball fell to Kane, who burst into the box and put it on a plate for his new best mate Bale. But Bale’s celebration, pumping his index finger in the direction of Lucas as he ran across to join the group hug, showed the Welshman understood who really deserved the credit.
Lucas was not done there, either. His shiny head seemed to be flicking all across the screen and before half-time, he had won three more tackles, interrupting Palace attacks and setting Spurs off on the counter.
One instance almost led to Tottenham doubling their lead. Following some more Lucas graft, Bale crossed beautifully onto the toe of Sergio Reguilon, who was so furious at his own miss that he looked like he was about to whack himself over the head.
In the second period, Tottenham took full control and in the end ran out comfortable winners. Yet the stylish victory was built on the foundation laid by Lucas Moura.
By full time, he had won 21 duels, five tackles and made four interceptions. They are not stats you associate with a Brazilian No.10, but they are vital nonetheless.
🇧🇷 Tottenham Hotspur Attacker Lucas Moura’s Performance Against Crystal Palace In The Premier League For Spurs:
— Last Word On Spurs🎙 (@LastWordOnSpurs) March 7, 2021
His manager was aware of Lucas’ importance, both off the ball and on it.
“It’s a bit unfair not to mention everybody,” Mourinho said afterwards, “but… Lucas in this position gives us a lot of acceleration, a lot of speed. He’s very good under pressure, very good against teams like Palace, [who are] very compact with the two lines of four.”
After a long spell of looking like an extra on the set in N17, popping onto the screen only intermittently, Lucas may finally be finding a role from which he can star, behind Harry Kane in the centre of the attack.
As mentioned, he is not a classic South American playmaker – there is not a great deal of subtlety or invention to his game.
But, having moved back into the central role in which he made his name at Sao Paulo, he can use the skills he does have: the straight-line speed with and without the ball, the energy and tenacity out of possession, the ability to break into the box and the willingness to drop back in and make a midfield three when required.
In a Mourinho team, that bases its game on off-the-ball intensity and swift breaks, playing over and around teams, rather than through, those are vital traits. Footballers, no matter how talented, are only ever good if deployed in the correct context.
This one seems to suit Lucas Moura down to the ground.