Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg pits young Brazilian against his former São Paulo team-mate Oscar, but Moura is confident the Parisians can progress
Rival supporters in Brazil enjoy teasing their São Paulo counterparts by saying their club claims to have formed every player that has ever entered their Morumbi stadium for a game. Undeniably, however, the club's youth academy does have a remarkable list of almuni, where one can find names such as the former Ballon d'Or winner Kaká and Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning captain Cafu.
But it is the tale of two more recent São Paulo graduates that promises an interesting side story to Champions League quarter-final meeting between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the French capital. Another chapter of a twisting plot involving Lucas Moura and Oscar: the boys who worked their way through the youth ranks together now find themselves locking horns again.
While the battle for a place in the Champions League semi-finals is equal, the Chelsea midfielder looks to have run away with the money on the international front: his irresistible rise for Brazil in 2012 helped push Moura to the fringes of the Brazilian squad, a position from which the PSG winger has never really escaped.
Moura is still considered to be out of Luiz Felipe Scolari's plans for the World Cup, while Oscar is one of the crown jewels in a Seleção who are expected to triumph on home soil.
But Moura has not thrown in the towel yet and our recent meeting in Paris was marked by his assurance that time could still be on his side. Deep down, however, the 21-year old knows his World Cup chances rest on him shining as PSG have a more than decent run in Europe, and that includes sending Oscar's Chelsea packing.
"Oscar and I have known each other for a long time and I must say it's quite surreal to meet each other again in a Champions League quarter-final," says Moura. "We have texted each other trying to find time to hang around either in London or Paris. I'd love to have him here for a barbeque, especially now that the weather is getting better. On the pitch, however, I need to see the back of him."
Last time the two graduates met Moura didn't have the energy to even flex the supposed 26 muscles necessary to smile. It was in October last year, when both players took part in Brazil's Far East friendlies against South Korea, in Seoul, and Zambia in Beijing. At the time, Moura was living on borrowed time and 'Big Phil' Scolari dropped enough hints for the press to know that only convincing displays would grant further call-ups for the PSG winger. A less subtle sign was the fact that Moura's on-pitch minutes had diminished even further after the former Chelsea manager returned to the national team job in February 2013: he averages a meagre 33 minutes per game in his 27 appearances for Brazil.
"It certainly wasn't the best time of my career," says Moura. "I had only just started my first full season for PSG after struggling a bit to adapt to my move to Europe and to a club with such a great squad. That pretty much hurt my chances with the Seleção, but that risk comes with the job. I wanted to play at the top level in Europe and PSG offered me a precious opportunity I couldn't turn down."
The Qatari-owned club paid São Paulo £35 million for Moura's services in late 2012. Ironically, that deal came after Chelsea had tabled a £32.5m bid. Moura might well have joined Chelsea's Brazilian contingent and its most flamboyant member, David Luiz, sang the club's praises to him during a Seleção gathering. "David was very enthusiastic about Chelsea and if you follow anything of football these days you have to know they are a force to be reckoned with'" adds Moura. "But PSG had a project that looked quite interesting because they wanted to do something similar to what happened at Chelsea. And they also have a lot of Brazilians there."
One of them was instrumental in his signing: the former Internazionale and Milan manager Leonardo, then working as the football director for the Parisians. Although a product of Rio side Flamengo's youth academy, the former Brazil left-back bloomed at São Paulo, a connection that had already proved invaluable when he lured Kaká to Milan in 2003.
While Moura has hardly hit the ground running in Europe, there are promising signs he is finally feeling more comfortable. After only 13 starts last season he has featured more prominently in the current campaign. It has done wonders for his confidence: his 14 assists, for example, are only bettered by Zlatan Ibrahimovic for PSG. "If there is anything I wanted to learn in Europe it was how I could be more of a team player," admits Moura. "I guess it is working. And when you see an unbelievable player like Zlatan smiling like a child after you set him up for a goal, it's such a buzz."
Never known as a great goalscorer (29 in 174 career games so far), Moura seems to be working on that too: videos of his daunting "Maradonesque" slaloming run against PSG's traditional rivals Marseille in Ligue 1, that only a goal-line clearance prevented from being a wondrous goal, were endlessly posted on Twitter and Facebook.
"There have been more starts for me this season and that can only boost a player's confidence. It's a shame that ball against Marseille didn't go in, though," he says. "The 'mister' [PSG's manager, the former Manchester United defender Laurent Blanc] told me later he would have laid off me for the rest of the season if it had!"
The man who slotted in after Carlo Ancelotti departed to Real Madrid at the end of last season, though, has only recently started unleashing Moura more often on European nights. He has started half of PSG's eight games so far, but played the full 90 minutes in two of their last three matches. "All I know is that I'm ready to help. The games against Chelsea will be tough, but I think PSG have already shown last season that they can upset teams with more European experience. We gave Barcelona a good run for their money [in last season's quarter-finals] and only went out on away goals. It still bugs me that we left the Champions League without losing a game", says Moura.
Even before the draw he had been snooping on the Stamford Bridge club. Hardly a party boy, Moura lives with his mother and stepfather, alongside a posse of friends and relatives who drop in from Brazil to keep him company and be mercilessly thrashed by the winger in table tennis games. They also spend a lot of time watching football and Moura has seen enough of Chelsea this season to pinpoint some dangers.
"Their defence-attack transition is unbelievably fast and they can hit you hard if you snooze. Chelsea have also got amazing players. Oscar, for example, has become crucial for them this season", Moura adds. "But if people in England are thinking PSG are underdogs for this tie, they should think twice. We have already shown we can compete at this level and the supporters are expecting us to go beyond our quarter-final exit last season".
Claiming Chelsea's and Oscar's scalp in Europe, though, can have an added bonus to Moura. Last week, Carlos Alberto Parreira, the Seleção's technical director, announced that he and Big Phil would be attending the game at the Parc de Princes. It could as well be one of the winger's last shots at changing the Brazil manager's mind.
"I am not obsessed, but it is natural that doing well for PSG is the only way I can push back into the squad," says Moura. "Having said that, it will be nice to do well with Big Phil at the stadium." Chelsea have been warned.