Hat-trick 'superhero' Lucas leads Tottenham to brink of promised land
Lucas Moura came to Europe dreaming of winning the Champions League but few could imagine the Brazilian's chance to fulfil his ambition would arrive with Tottenham after he was discarded by Paris Saint-Germain.
Spurs will go to Madrid on June 1 to face Liverpool thanks to Lucas's second half hat-trick that turned around a 3-0 aggregate deficit against Ajax as the club reached the final for the first time in their history.
"The Champions League final is a dream for me. Since I was a child I dreamed of this moment and now I live this moment," said an emotional Lucas.
"We need to enjoy it. Look at me -- it's the best moment in my life, my career."
Ajax's wonder kids had wowed the continent with their dazzling talent in eliminating Real Madrid and Juventus and seemed set to add the scalp of a jaded Tottenham to that list after 135 minutes of the tie.
In different circumstances Lucas would likely not even have been on the pitch.
Harry Kane watched on from the sidelines due to ankle ligament damage, the latest injury to have ravaged Mauricio Pochettino's over-worked squad -- Spurs have not signed a single player since Lucas's arrival in January 2018.
Yet after a season of ups and downs, Spurs will travel to the Spanish capital knowing they could be on the brink of the greatest night in the club's history.
"Without Harry Kane many people were talking about Son (Heung-min), but today it was Lucas Moura who scored three goals," said Pochettino, who broke down in tears after the match in Amsterdam.
"That showed that the team is more important than any name. When one does not play, another plays."
Lucas's former employers PSG would do well to remember that piece of advice as their star-studded approach to try and buy European glory continues to fail.
The world-record signing of Neymar for 222 million euros ($248 million) saw Lucas jettisoned from Paris for a fraction of that fee, yet in the course of 40 minutes in Amsterdam he scored as many Champions League semi-final goals as Neymar has in his career.
"All the credit goes to Lucas because he has made history for the club. He deserves it because he just has an incredible mentality and I think it's a nice story of revenge for him," said Tottenham and France captain Hugo Lloris.
"He showed this evening that if you score a hat-trick in these circumstances you don't do so just by chance.
"He has the quality and the mentality and he can flourish with us, which is all the better for us."
- Poch transformation -
Pochettino branded Lucas a "superhero" but must also take much of the credit for the transformation of the club over five years and his team over 45 minutes.
When the Argentine arrived in north London in 2014, just qualifying for the Champions League was the target.
Barring a final day collapse in the Premier League, next season will involve a fourth consecutive campaign dining at Europe's top table and they could even win it in just over three weeks' time.
Pochettino's half-time change to throw on the physical presence of Fernando Llorente up front unsettled Ajax and the visitors' preyed on that weak spot, with an aerial bombardment.
With 95 minutes come and gone, so seemed Spurs' hopes, but one last long ball up to the Spaniard was flicked on and found its way to Lucas to launch a dagger into Ajax hearts.
"It was not simply Lucas Moura?s nervelessness when it counted most, and his pace, skill and clinical finishing," wrote The Times.
"It was Moura?s utter determination to run at Ajax defenders, including the revered captain (Matthijs) De Ligt, that gave Spurs hope."
Hope that has carried the 26-year-old and his team all the way to Madrid.
? 2019 AFP