Has Lucas Leiva Played His Last Premier League Game for Liverpool?

Max Munton@thisisanfieldLiverpool CorrespondentAugust 21, 2014

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 17: Dusan Tadic of Southampton takes on Lucas Leiva of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Southampton at Anfield on August 17, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Lucas Leiva's inclusion in Liverpool's starting line-up against Southampton on Sunday raised a few eyebrows, but was it an Anfield swan song for the Brazilian midfielder?

With manager Brendan Rodgers opting to play two defensive midfielders, Lucas lined up next to Steven Gerrard. What followed was a very cagey and non-aggressive first-half display from Liverpool.


Critical Performance

In particular, Lucas' performance was scrutinised as he failed to make a single tackle and was withdrawn for the better attacking option of Joe Allen.

The switch with Allen, as well as the introduction of Rickie Lambert, took the Reds forward once again—Daniel Sturridge scored the winner with 11 minutes to go.

Whilst Liverpool's quiet first-half performance could be put down to Rodgers' decision to play with two deep-lying midfielders, rather than the personnel, many may feel Lucas' time on Merseyside is up.

Due to the way the fixtures fall and the forthcoming international break, it was the Reds' last game at Anfield until September 13 when they host Aston Villa.

By then, Lucas could have moved on after a summer of speculation linking him with a move to Napoli, as per Ian Herbert of The Independent.

Was there any sentimentality in Rodgers' decision to play Lucas on Sunday?


Fading Away

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 02: Lucas Leiva #21 of Liverpool on defense during first half action against A.C. Milan in the Guinness International Champions Cup at Bank of America Stadium on August 2, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Liverpool defeated A.C. M
Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

A popular figure over the years for Liverpool, and loyal throughout some of the club's darkest moments, the Reds' rapid progress over the last two years may have pulled too far ahead of the 27-year-old for him to catch up.

With Champions League games on the horizon and an intense increase in expectation, it is fair to say Liverpool's bar in terms of the calibre of players they need in their first team has well and truly been raised.

Lucas' decline has been unfortunately hampered, two long-term injuries severely putting a struggle on his career.

With Steven Gerrard relocated to a deep-lying playmaker role last season, Lucas' opportunities at Liverpool have dwindled, his first-team appearances looking sluggish, unable to keep up with the pace of the Reds' poetry in motion.

Andrew Beasley's analysis on Bass Tuned To Red of Lucas' stats over the last six years draws to a depressing conclusion:

His tackling is far more costly than it was, when it used to be his greatest strength, and if Lucas’ previously best asset is not there to a great extent any more, then it’s almost impossible to see a place for him in the team in the future. This is a shame considering the service he has given Liverpool, and the tremendous amount of criticism he managed to overcome in his early years, but there’s no room for sentiment at Anfield in the pursuit of their goals this season.


Best for His Career

Chris Bascombe of The Daily Telegraph wrote back in May of Lucas’ possible departure this summer: "The popular Brazilian would undoubtedly be retained as a squad player if he wished, but he is at a point in his career where he wants to be a permanent starter."

With Emre Can's arrival from Bayer Leverkusen and the central midfield options of Gerrard, Allen and Jordan Henderson, it is difficult to see a future for Lucas at the club.

As the transfer window clock ticks down, it wouldn't be surprising to see him take up the opportunity to be a first-team regular elsewhere.


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