Following the thigh injury sustained by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Paris Saint-Germain’s UEFA Champions League first-leg clash with Chelsea earlier this month, it was expected that the French champions’ Brazilian starlet Lucas Moura would get consecutive starts with Edinson Cavani moving inside.
Although the latter has happened, the former is not exactly going to plan for the 21-year-old at the Parc des Princes at the moment.
Lucas made back-to-back starts for Laurent Blanc’s side in the two matches immediately after the Swede’s injury—the Ligue 1 encounter with Stade de Reims and the second leg of the Champions League tie against Chelsea—but has since been benched against Olympique Lyonnais and now Evian Thonon Gaillard in le Championnat.
The Selecao talent did start the Coupe de la Ligue final against Lyon last weekend and will likely play from the beginning away at Sochaux on Sunday, a match that could seal a second successive title for PSG. However, it is not likely to be enough for Moura, who is trying desperately to play his way back into FIFA World Cup contention.
It appears that the damage has already been done, with the former Sao Paulo prodigy having not been called up by Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari since a friendly against Zambia last October.
Although Lucas has enjoyed a reasonably productive season in the French capital—scoring three goals and providing nine assists in 32 league appearances—the problem with those appearances is that only 15 of them have come as a member of the starting XI.
8 - Lucas Moura has delivered 8 assists this season, joint-most prolific Brazilian in Europe's Top 4 leagues + L1 alongside Neymar. Samba.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) January 31, 2014
The €45 million man has become something of a luxury player for PSG this season, failing to get the consistent starts needed to really help him push on and develop the reputation that he had started to build up for himself back in his homeland. His statistics might suggest that he is an important player at club level, but his value has waned internationally.
Now likely to miss out on the World Cup on home soil this summer, Lucas might be starting to consider his future at the Parc des Princes after the recent frustrations against Lyon and Evian.
Part of the problem for Moura in Paris is that it has become clear over the course of the season that Blanc lacks confidence in the 21-year-old.
Le President is quick to criticise the Parisian No. 29—even after some of his best performances—and good displays are rarely rewarded with a second consecutive start. This has put the Brazilian international in a constant state of uncertainty, having his confidence knocked as soon as it is raised and constantly feeling on the outside looking in.
Ezequiel Lavezzi’s impressive burst of form since the start of 2014 has also not helped Lucas, but it has benefitted the team greatly. The pair are essentially vying for the same place in the team—on the left side of the front three—as Cavani plays on the right when Ibrahimovic is fit.
The Argentine’s seven league goals in 28 appearances betters his team-mate’s total of three, but el Pocho is yet to provide a single assist while Moura boasts nine—joint third best in Ligue 1. He has also laid on one further goal in Europe this term.
Of greater injustice to the samba sensation, though, is that he was in form when Lavezzi was not midway through the season.
Few can argue with the former SSC Napoli man playing ahead of his fellow South American at present, but there was a genuine case for Lucas to start ahead of the PSG No. 22 when he was badly out of shape at the end of 2013.
Lavezzi was preferred to the Selecao hopeful even when his form could not justify his regular inclusion. Although the Albiceleste star’s performances are now vindicating Blanc’s faith in him, the damage that it did to Moura’s confidence is one of the main reasons that he has fallen out of contention for a place in Brazil’s World Cup squad.
Lucas will be of greater importance to Blanc next season as the tactician needs to change the shape of a team that is quickly becoming predictable, but that will be of little consolation to the creative Brazilian. He will rightly feel that he was not given a chance to cement his place in the starting XI when it was thoroughly deserved.
Now, with Ibrahimovic likely to return to action before the end of the season and push him closer to the fringes once more, this summer will pose Moura and PSG some interesting questions.
A sacrifice could be required in order to appease potential Financial Fair Play rulings and—if unhappy—Lucas could be the transfer that makes perfect sense if it enables PSG to keep the likes of Cavani.