Lucas Moura arrived with great fanfare, but delivered little for PSG
PARIS -- Lucas Moura is leaving Paris Saint-Germain and when he does, it will end a five-year association that has seen the Brazil international win 16 pieces of silverware with the French giants.
"Is there a chance that I stay this winter? I do not think so," Lucas told journalists with sadness after PSG's 1-0 win away at Nantes on Sunday when asked about his future in the mixed zone. "With what the coach [Unai Emery] has said, it looks like this is the end of my Paris story.
"I have offers, but I cannot talk about them. I like English football very much; it is truly one of the best leagues in the world.
"I have always said that I want to stay in Europe. I still have things to achieve here."
Where Lucas goes next remains unclear, for now, but it is not a complete surprise that he is leaving the Parc des Princes. The 25-year-old has known since the summer and the signings of compatriot and close friend Neymar, as well as Kylian Mbappe, that Emery and sporting director Antero Henrique were planning for the future without him. However, at the time Lucas' partner was pregnant and he wanted to stay in Paris until the child was born, so he rejected the opportunity to join Ligue 1 rivals Monaco.
On top of the former Sao Paulo man's domestic situation, there was also the hope that with the arrival of Neymar and the considerable Brazil influence in the dressing room, urther boosted by the signing of Dani Alves, that his future could be saved.
After one goal and one assist from just five appearances in Le Championnat (exclusively as a substitute) and regular failure to even be included in Emery's match squads, it is finally clear to the No. 7 that he needs to move on.
Lucas' inability to succeed with PSG, largely down to lack of thought on the pitch and an over-reliance on speed and trickery, looked probable under both Emery and predecessor Laurent Blanc at times. An impressive return of 19 goals and six assists across all competitions in 2016-17 hinted at a possible future under Emery, but the signings of Neymar and Mbappe proved that the Qatari-owned club no longer regarded him as key to their ambitious project with the ultimate aim of Champions League glory.
It had all started with such promise and on that very stage back in early 2013, shortly after Lucas had officially joined the club. Lucas starred as PSG won 2-1 away at Valencia in what went on to be a 3-2 aggregate win in the round of 16, and his searing pace gave the home defence twisted blood while he teed Javier Pastore up for his team's second goal before half-time at Mestalla.
Despite that initial promise on the continental stage, Lucas was unable to build on it and actually took until the 2015-16 season to score his first European goal.
Moura had shown gradual improvement domestically since his arrival, adding three Ligue 1 assists in his first 10 outings. Five goals and 11 assists across all competitions followed in his first full season, with eight goals and six assists in his second campaign before he finally hit double figures in the 2015-16 term, with 13 goals and six assists in domestic and European competition combined.
Mirroring his fluctuating form under Blanc and then Emery, Lucas was in and out of the Brazil squad but despite his best (statistical) season to date last campaign, he was not featured under Tite and probably will not be playing a part the World Cup in Russia this summer.
Lucas had a great chance to capitalise on his excellent return last term and join Monaco once he knew that Neymar and Mbappe were arriving. Rightly or wrongly, he decided to stay put -- even though he was told in no uncertain terms that he had no future at Parc des Princes well before the summer transfer window shut.
Now, with time running out before a World Cup that Brazil are among the favourites for -- bear in mind that Lucas missed the cut for the last edition on home soil back in 2014 -- it looks almost certain that he will miss out again. Six months into the new season and with his career at a crossroads because of a lack of playing time, and potential suitors also put off by the idea of stumping up significant money without loaning him first, he's running out of options as PSG look to get themselves on the right side of UEFA's financial fair play.
Real Betis showed recent interest in a loan move with an option to buy, while reported inquiries by Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur were also in the news.
Like Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas arrived amid great fanfare and promised much but ultimately delivered little. He might be departing with plenty of trophies to his name, but he has not developed as much as he could or should have because of his inability to stamp out lazy habits that previously did not hold him back in Brazil because of his pace and trickery.
Lucas will leave some with fond memories, such as that performance against Valencia, his brother-like relationship with compatriot Marquinhos, his famous catchphrase of "champions, mon frere!" ("champions, bro!") and his searing burst of pace and a goal-line clearance by Marseille's Rod Fanni to deny him one of Le Classique's all-time great goals.
Valencia and that run-and-dinked attempt were the closest moments PSG came to truly seeing the Lucas that beat Manchester United back in 2012. The YouTube sensation was running rings around his opponents in Brazil and looked certain to become a future star.
It is quite indicative of his time at Parc des Princes that in five years of playing for the capital club, his enduring memory is likely to be of a nearly moment. Although he has done more in the game than somebody like Kerlon (once famed for his seal dribble party trick), Lucas at PSG will always be a story of what might have been.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.