For much of his Spurs career spanning nearly four years, Lucas Moura has divided opinion and remains a true Marmite player.
Whenever the Brazilian takes to the pitch, you’re guaranteed that he will give his all and fight for every blade of grass. But even at the age of 29 and with a decade of top-level experience behind him, he still lacks consistency.
The stark distance between Lucas’ floor and ceiling is probably larger than any of his teammates’. For every Ajax moment is a one-out-of-ten performance against minnows.
Once Antonio Conte arrived in north London, there were questions over whether Lucas would sink or swim – would his willingness to die for the team shine through, or would he be too erratic for even the Italian to tame?
Despite a slow start to Conte’s reign, Lucas now firmly looks like one of Spurs‘ key players again. A fruitful December yielded stunners against Norwich City in the Premier League and rivals West Ham United in the Carabao Cup, but his Boxing Day performance against Crystal Palace has been his highlight of the season.
His simple assist for Harry Kane to open the scoring was one that the England captain simply couldn’t miss, but his desire and outright freakish physical ability to out-jump the towering Joachim Andersen to head home Tottenham’s second was Lucas at his very best; risking himself for the team and having a tangible impact on the game.
Under Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo, it felt like Lucas was left to his own devices to try and swing games in Spurs’ favour, and the Brazilian’s admirable confidence most likely meant he considered himself in the same echelon as Kane and Son Heung-min (as a professional footballer probably would).
That’s not to say Conte has limited his role. If anything this is merely a criticism of the two Portuguese coaches who will long be forgotten in Spurs’ history books. Lucas’ place in those fabled north London chapters is already assured, and he could yet add to his legacy if he continues on his current trajectory.
Wilfried Zaha, a transfer target of Spurs’ in the Mauricio Pochettino era before signing Lucas, cost Palace a fighting chance on Sunday with his childish petulance. Lucas’ professionalism and excellence won Spurs the game. Talk about a simple sliding doors metaphor.