Ambitious Lucas targets title with Sao Paulo

Even though Santos start the Brazilian championship as favourites, teenager Lucas is confident that his Sao Paulo side can win the title this year.

"I am very ambitious, I want to win my first title for Sao Paulo and I am confident that we can do it this year," the diminutive Lucas said in an interview ahead of the start of the championship this weekend.

"We have a good, united squad of players and that's important. We are a big team, a team with tradition and history and that all together could take us to the title.

"Santos are without doubt the best team in Brazil," added the 19-year-old midfielder of the side who recently added the Paulista state championship to the Libertadores Cup they won last year and, in Neymar, have the best player in the world outside Spain.

"They've played together a long time, they are well prepared, they have a great manager and so I think they are the favourites.

"Fluminense also have a good side this year. They've done well in Rio and have all the pieces in place to challenge. I'd point to Internacional as well.

"I think when you get to the final stretch there are six or seven teams in with a chance of winning the title," Lucas added.

"Brazilian football is unpredictable and you never know who is going to win. That makes it more exciting and it's good for fans."

Eight teams have taken the title since 2000, with four different champions lifting the trophy in the last four years.

The unpredictability is partly because few teams have the infrastructure or management stability to prevail over a long period and also because teams can lose players halfway through the season in Europe's summer transfer window.

MORE RESPONSIBILITY

Sao Paulo dominated Brazilian football until recently, winning three consecutive league titles, one Paulista state championship, one Libertadores Cup and one Club World Cup between 2005 and 2009.

They have struggled to maintain those high standards, particularly since losing coach Muricy Ramalho three years ago. Six men have taken charge of the team since he left.

This year, they should have former Sevilla and Brazil striker Luis Fabiano back at full strength and will rely on him to score goals.

They also hope to see talismanic goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni back from injury and will be expecting more from recent signing Jadson.

If they are to have any chance of winning the title they will need Lucas to take more responsibility, particularly in big games.

The midfielder, whose only first-class medals have come with Brazil's under-20 team, frequently shows flashes of brilliance but has struggled to reproduce that form week in, week out over the course of a season.

Lucas reckons that might be down to uncertainty over his role in the team. He has been utilised in different areas by different coaches but was clear in his own mind about where his strengths lie.

"I think that players like me, quick, dribblers, the closer they are to the goal, the better it is," he said.

"Many times we know that in modern football we need to help out in midfield and marking so I try to do a bit of everything but my strength is close to the penalty box, where I can pick up the ball and go for goal."

Lucas is also establishing himself as a regular for the national team in what promises to be a busy year for Mano Menezes's side.

Menezes last week named Lucas in the squad to play friendlies against Denmark, the United States, Mexico and Argentina and he is considered a certainty to be part of the Olympic side in London in July and August when Brazil go for the one title they have never won.


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