Thursday 19 September 2019

Moura looks to substitute years of tears for trophies

Lucas Moura and Tanguy Ndombele celebrate Moura’s equaliser against Manchester City last Saturday, which earned Tottenham a share of the spoils at the Etihad Stadium. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Lucas Moura and Tanguy Ndombele celebrate Moura’s equaliser against Manchester City last Saturday, which earned Tottenham a share of the spoils at the Etihad Stadium. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Sam Dean

It has been a summer of tears for Lucas Moura. First they were tears of happiness, after his hat-trick for Tottenham Hotspur in the most dramatic of Champions League semi-finals, and then tears of sadness when the final had slipped out of their grasp. From the sounds of it, there may well have been tears of laughter, too, thanks to the initiation ritual that all new signings must go through at Tottenham.

They have not had many of these to savour in recent times.

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Before the arrivals of Tanguy Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon and Giovani Lo Celso this summer, Lucas was the last fresh face to stroll through the doors at Hotspur Way, in January 2018.

He has therefore enjoyed the new boys' attempts to acclimatise, not least because their singing in front of the squad - a rite of passage for all new arrivals - was so dreadful.

"It was a funny moment," says the Brazilian. "Tanguy was very bad. Very, very bad. Lo Celso as well. We will see about Ryan, he is injured and when he comes back he will sing."

Beyond the singing, though, there is a sense of freshness around Tottenham now that the club are making acquisitions again.

Mauricio Pochettino did not want them to stand still after that run to the Champions League final and there can be no denying that the squad needed freshening ahead of this first full season in their new stadium, where they host Newcastle United today.

"Always when a new player comes, it is exciting for us and for the fans and I think we have got some very good players," says Lucas. "They will help us a lot. We are stronger this season. The new stadium is unbelievable. I have never seen a stadium like this.

"Of course, the price is high, it's so expensive, but it will help us a lot because to play at home and have the structure that we have there, it is amazing. The most important thing is that we had two transfer windows with no signings and we still did well, played in the Champions League, [reached the] top four. That is so important. We played well. We got to build the new stadium. Perfect."

Except it was not quite perfect. Defeat by Liverpool in Madrid ensured another season of progress ended on a low note. "At the moment that I cried [after the match], it was so difficult because I really believed that we would win," says Lucas.

"We had some opportunities to score and we missed them. But we need to be happy because it's not easy to arrive in the Champions League final. You need to be happy for this.

"And we need to keep this as motivation because I think we showed we are capable of winning trophies."

Lucas showed his capabilities, too. Now 27, the boy wonder is a man grown, with a son of his own and another on the way. He is becoming one of the senior figures at Tottenham, scoring 15 goals last season and striking an equaliser against Manchester City last week. That header came within moments of leaving the bench. He still spends too much time as a substitute for his liking and it is tempting to wonder whether this, his second full season, will be his best chance yet to nail down a starting place.

The most painful omission was for the Champions League final in June, when Lucas was dropped for a half-fit Harry Kane, despite that hat-trick against Ajax in the previous round. "In the hotel when he [Pochettino] gave the starting XI, of course I was a little bit sad," he says.

"The coach needs to choose 11 players. He can choose only 11 players. We need to respect [that]. I don't have a problem with this.

"Of course, I was sad inside me. I want to play. But I know how to understand, I know how to respect and I know how difficult it is for him to choose 11 players. So that's football. We need to be professional and keep working."

There was no individual explanation from Pochettino, just an acceptance that Lucas needed to be ready when called. He came on after 66 minutes but, like his team-mates, struggled as Liverpool tightened their grip.

Tottenham have not dwelled on the defeat. Pochettino has not allowed them to. The summer break provided some distance for the players and now they are refreshed and ready to pursue that elusive first trophy of the Pochettino era.

"That is my objective and our objective, to win a trophy," says Lucas. "I think we can dream of this. We have a very good squad, an amazing structure here, a lot of fans. We need to work hard because I think it is possible."

The Sunday Telegraph

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