Lucas Moura: from So Paulo prodigy and PSG outcast to Tottenham hero | David Hytner

The Brazilian took time to settle at Spurs and may not have faced Ajax but for injuries yet his hat-trick showed his talent

Lucas Moura put the earphones in and looked down at the iPad screen, the peak of his dark NYC cap obscuring his eyes. It was late on Wednesday night and the Tottenham forward, whose sensational second-half hat-trick had slain Ajax in the Champions League semi-final, had stopped to talk to Brazilian TV.

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    The journalist from his homeland wanted him to watch how the station had covered his final goal in the 96th minute, which gave Spurs an away-goals triumph after a 3-3 aggregate draw to set up a final against Liverpool on 1 June the first time that the club have reached the showpiece.

    The commentary built to its classically Brazilian climax and when the man behind the microphone boomed out Mouras name, the man himself lifted his head and chuckled. Then it hit him. The magnitude of what he had achieved; how he had turned a personal dream into reality after a long and winding journey. And he could not hold back the tears.

    Its difficult to talk, Moura said, wiping them away. Since I was a kid, it was a dream to play in the Champions League and it was always my dream to win it. And now I have the opportunity to play a final the chance to give this joy to my family and all my friends, everyone from the neighbourhood where I was born.

    God is wonderful. I always say that he surprises me. After the first half, when we were losing 2-0, I believed we could turn it round. I was praying to God and he gave me this amazing game. Football is my life. Only football can give us moments like this one.

    Quick guide

    Champions League: finalists from the same country

    24 May 2000: Real Madrid 3-0 ValenciaThe first intra-national European Cup final in the competitions’s 45-year history acted as the stage for Steve McManaman to write his name into Champions League folklore. The Englishman secured victory for Real in Paris with a stunning 67th-minute volley, with Fernando Morientes and Ral scoring the others.

    28 May 2003: Juventus 0-0 Milan (Milan won 3-2 on pens)Dripping in Italian defensive energy, 120 minutes of tough tackling and swinging elbows at Old Trafford yielded just eight shots on target and a whopping 57 fouls. The goalkeepers remained on top in the shootout with five of the first nine efforts saved before Andriy Shevchenko sealed Milans sixth European Cup.

    21 May 2008: Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (United won 6-5 on pens)Didier Drogba has spoken of his uneasiness at seeing Moscow adorned in United red before the final and that anxiety was vindicated on a pulsating night that saw Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard trade goals before Drogba was sent off in extra-time. John Terry then slipped at the crucial moment.

    25 May 2013: Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Bayern MunichTwelve months is an eternity in football and no one knows that better than Arjen Robben. In the 2012 final Robben was the scapegoat in defeat to Chelsea. A year later he cemented himself as a Bayern legend, scoring the last-minute winner after Ilkay Gndogan and Mario Mandzukic each struck in the second half at Wembley.

    24 May 2014: Real Madrid 4-1AtlticoMadrid (aet)At 90 minutes Atltico looked to have triumphed against the odds to win a historic double. On 94 minutes Sergio Ramos wheeled away in celebration of a heartbreaking equaliser. By the time 120 minutes had elapsed in Lisbon Real had run riot en route to La Decima.

    28 May 2016: Real Madrid 1-1 Atltico Madrid (Real won 5-3 on pens)If Cristiano Ronaldo was still searching for a crowning moment as king of Madrid then the fifth and final penalty in this shootout in Milan confirmed his coronation. Sergio Ramos and Yannick Carrasco scored in normal time before Juanfran hit the post with his spot-kick setting up Ronaldo’s vintage moment. Benjy Nurick

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    Photograph: Sergio Perez/X00213

    The affection with which Moura is held by his Spurs teammates is plain. They were visibly delighted for him after he turned the second leg into a showcase for his quicksilver talent. I hope Lucas gets a statue in England after this, Christian Eriksen said.

    This is why Moura signed for Spurs when he left Paris Saint-Germain in January last year. He has repeatedly made it plain that he is here to win trophies and not to deal in the near-misses with which the club have become synonymous in recent times.

    Consider the boldness of his comments before the first leg. I joined Tottenham because I believed in the project of this club, Moura said. We need to think about winning trophies to make history. We are in the semis but I want more.

    The highs often taste sweeter when they are preceded by lows and Moura would rather forget the season he endured last time out. It began at PSG under Unai Emery, who is now in charge at Arsenal, and would be shaped by the cold shoulder that he felt from the manager.

    Play Video
    2:41

    Lucas Moura, Hugo Lloris and Toby Alderweireld on Spurs’ remarkable comeback at Ajax video

    Moura had been an important part of the PSG squad since his arrival from So Paulo in January 2013 for 40m, particularly in the previous campaign Emerys first in Paris making 53 appearances and scoring a career-high 19 goals.

    Then, Emery bombed him. The manager had to accommodate the big-money signings Neymar and Kylian Mbapp, but it was still remarkable to witness the speed of Mouras descent from hero to zero. Over the first half of the season, Moura played six times, each as a substitute. In total, he was on the field for 80 minutes. He was asked last November whether Emery had explained why he overlooked him. No, he replied. I need to respect the decision of the coach.

    It is hard enough at the best of times to swaps clubs in January to take in the demands of a new manager and particularly in a new country. But Mouras lack of match sharpness made it impossible for him to make an impact at Spurs in the second half of the season. He did not start a Premier League game until mid-April at Brighton his only other start in the competition was against Leicester on the final day and his one goal came at Rochdale in the FA Cup.

    Look at him now. Mouras goals against Ajax took him to 15 for a season that he began brightly with two in the 3-0 win at Manchester United and the 26-year-old has emerged as the perfect example of the hunger and focus that Mauricio Pochettino has cultivated in players who are not automatic choices.

    Would Moura have played on Wednesday if Harry Kane were fit? Probably not. But Pochettino reacted angrily to a question about whether Kane would be back from his ankle ligament injury for the final. As an aside, the expectation is that the England captain will be available. Ciao, Pochettino said, pushing back his chair and heading for the press conference exit door. Today you are going to ask me about Harry Kane? Come on!

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    Photograph: Chesnot/Getty Images Europe

    Pochettinos point was that it is a squad game, in which all 25 players must be respected and trusted and rotated in and out of the team during the season so that when required to step up at a big moment, they are ready. In Kanes absence, it was supposed to be Son Heung-min who did so but instead it was Moura, who is now showing his true level, the one that marked him out as a protege at So Paulo and drove him at PSG until his deep freeze.

    How would Moura feel if Kane were fit to face Liverpool? He is our striker, he is our difference on the pitch and I am happy to have him back, Moura replied, with typical humility. Whatever happens, Moura will always have Amsterdam.

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