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Why Liverpool, Man Utd are circling Sao Paulo for Lucas

Liverpool football chief Damien Comolli is desperate to bring him to Anfield, Manchester United have been watching him since he was known by another name, while Real Madrid and Russia's biggest clubs have already seen offers rejected.

For Sao Paulo fans, Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva is the real deal. Any youngster who shows promise coming through at Sao Paulo is dubbed the 'new Kaka' by local scribes, but the fans know better and many believe Lucas is the best they're seen since the Real Madrid ace.

But he's not one of their own. For as a junior - and known then as Marcelinho - Lucas caught the eye of European scouts while playing for Corinthians. But it could have all so different as a seven year-old, when he was identified by Juventus playing for Sao Caetano do Sul. Juve were eager to keep him at one of their local satellite clubs, but eventually he was snapped up by Corinthians.

While proud of her son's progress, Mum Fatima admits she had concerns over the travel commitments Corinthians demanded.

Fatima was worried Lucas' education was suffering.

"I was terrified because, with this routine every day, he would miss one hour of schooling because of his football. His father and I always shared things. He took care of the football and I, the schooling. We decided that the way it was, it could not go on."

Dad Jorge recalled: "I asked Corinthians to arrange a school that was near the club and accommodation. But the answer was always the same: 'we cannot now do this'."

For three years, Jorge and Fatima were greeted with the same response from Corinthians management and when his contract came up for renewal, they chose to act.

Sao Paulo, recalled Jorge, moved "heaven and earth" to sign their son. The biggest attraction was their devotion to Lucas' education.

"They said, if he doesn't pass his school year, then he can't play in the team," said Jorge. "That was enough for me."

Lucas was also housed at the local academy, which meant less time travelling and more devoted to his education - and his football.

"It's the best decision I've ever made," added Jorge.

"They (Corinthians) say Sao Paulo stole my son. This is not true. And I'll say that to the face of anyone who believes otherwise."

There is bitterness between the family and Corinthians, which claim he moved only for money. This led to Lucas dropping his 'Marcelinho' moniker. The midfielder wanted to end all ties with his old club and so chose to take the family name in 2010.

"I opted for Sao Paulo. It was best for my development. I am very happy at Sao Paulo, a club that has welcomed me, believed in my talent," said the midfielder.

Sao Paulo know they have something special on their hands and have already wrote a new £70 million buyout clause into his contract in the last six months. This development came just before Liverpool tabled a £9 million offer for the 19 year-old earlier this season.

Comolli rates the Brazilian highly and moved for the midfielder after a stunning U20 South American championships last year.

Lucas is capable of playing wide or behind the front pair, not a natural goal scorer, his likeness to Kaka cannot be understated. Great on the ball, nimble and strong in possession, he is capable of the spectacular, which is why he's now a rock solid member of Mano Menezes' Brazil squad at such a young age.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson's interest is no surprise given his fascination with the Brazilian transfer market in recent years. He had Jaap Stam follow Lucas while he was at Corinthians and has kept tabs on his progress since his controversial Sao Paulo move.

A January transfer is unlikely, after it was ruled out by Lucas last month. The best time to move for Lucas will be after the London Games. He's made it clear that the Olympics is his main goal for 2012 and won't be seeking an exit to Europe before then.

Lucas' management also know, if it is to be the Premier League next season, then what better way to sell himself than in front of local clubs in London 2012.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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