THE LIMELIGHT

LUCAS IN

The Brazilian’s sensational hat-trick in Amsterdam was beyond even his wildest dreams

BY SIMON HART

“I think the ball has always been my best friend.” So says Lucas Moura summing up his relationship with the chief tool of his trade. “When I was a child, I woke up and went to bed with the ball by my side. I had the ball with me all the time. I’d play inside the house, and broke all kinds of windows and glasses.”

Whatever got smashed back then, nothing will ever beat the racket that Tottenham Hotspur’s Brazilian forward caused on the night of Wednesday 8 May – the night of the UEFA Champions League semi-final hat-trick that broke Ajax hearts. Three shots that rang around the football world. “I got 300,000 followers in two days and a lot of messages,” he says, that social-media response illustrating the impact of a second-half treble Lucas describes as “a great gift from God”. He continues: “I believed and I had a lot of hope that we’d win that match, that we’d go through to the final, but I didn’t imagine even in my wildest dreams that I would score three goals.”

The 26-year-old struck only once for Spurs in his first season in London after arriving from Paris Saint-Germain midway through the 2017/18 campaign. This season opportunities have opened up, thanks notably to Harry Kane’s injuries, and he has 15 – including his crucial equaliser away to Barcelona in the group stage and a goal against tonight’s opponents Liverpool at Anfield in March. 

Since then, his excellent one-v-one finishing has yielded hat-tricks against both Huddersfield Town and Ajax, and his team-mate Kieran Trippier, for one, is not surprised by his growing influence, describing him as “razor-sharp” – a quality that was never more apparent than for Lucas’s second goal at the Johan Cruijff ArenA. Picking up the ball in a tight area, he made space with his swift feet, spinning away from defenders before shooting low into the net. It was a goal he owes to that old relationship with the ball. “When I played futsal, aged five, I learned this,” he explains.

His prize was another ball he will cherish. Kane, his captain, told him to grab it and he did just that. “I did grab it. Without a doubt it’s a very special football which I will take great care of. It’s the most important football of my career and I kept it.”

Of course, it was only half of his prize: the other half is a shot at greatness in this UEFA Champions League final. Can Spurs defy the odds again? “We’re two teams that know each other well, but it’s an evenly matched game and we have the ability and quality to be crowned champions. Just one more match, without a doubt the most important match of our lives, and we are going to give everything to bring that title home.” And, he will hope, make some noise once more.

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