The Brazilian boss, Luiz Felipe Scolari, wasn’t in the mood for mucking around when it came to World Cup squad selection. There were no provisional lists. No training camps to assess his players before final selection. There is no dreaming of a call-up for anybody now. The 23 are done and dusted.
Such is the depth of quality available to Scolari, he has opted to omit Liverpool’s Brazilian duo of Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Leiva from his squad – not to mention Lucas Moura, Filipe Luis, Kaka etc.
Both will no doubt be disappointed. Coutinho has adapted instantly to the physical demands of the Premier League, and has been in scintillating form throughout the whole of the campaign. Lucas has missed a large chunk of this season, but with 24 international caps, and his ever-reliable presence, he may feel just as hard done by.
But from a Liverpool-centric viewpoint, will their pain ultimately be the club’s gain?
Lucas has been blighted by injuries over the past two or three seasons. The midfielder, whilst being a largely consistent performer when present, has missed significant portions of each of the last three seasons due to injury. The physical challenge of a World Cup – having to travel, train, and play in such a short time period – could potentially come back to haunt both he and Liverpool later next season.
Since his return from injury recently, Lucas has filled in for Jordan Henderson due to the Englishman’s suspension. And the Brazilian has looked out of place in a composed and dynamic Liverpool midfield. The chance for him to get some much needed r&r won’t be a bad thing. The chance to let his body recuperate after a tough season may just allow him to hit the ground running come August.
The 2013-14 season has been Philippe Coutinho’s first professional campaign as a regular starter. Having played 36 games in all competitions, he has never experienced this frequency of football in his fledgling career. Whilst the game time, and recovery periods, may not be of a worry for a player as young and fit as Coutinho, the challenges he has faced are greater than any in his professional career so far. The potential for both mental and physical burnout could be a legitimate worry for Brendan Rodgers. With a relatively small core of players in his squad, the over-exertion of Coutinho could have a negative impact during next season.
With Brazil hoping, and expecting, to progress to the latter stages of the competition, the inclusion of both players in their World Cup squad would mean a later return to pre-season, less time to bed in with the squad again. Ultimately, this could mean each player missing the early stages of the season; something Rodgers will be keen to avoid.
As Liverpool head into next year looking to not only strengthen their position amongst the top teams in the Premier League, but also looking to compete in the Champions League, the squad will be tested to the limits. It will be of paramount importance that they have a squad who is fit and raring to go once the games come thick and fast in the autumn.
Having said all this, the World Cup can be beneficial. Psychologically, the impact of a positive and successful tournament could be felt at club level. If the players were to perform well, they could well be buoyed to start the season and may transfer some of their international form directly over to the club. Add in the impact of playing in a home tournament for Coutinho and Lucas, and the good vibes could easily rub off on those around them.
While neither of the players will view it as a positive, their absence from the World Cup this summer could have a hugely positive impact for Liverpool starting next season. A rested and refuelled Philippe Coutinho, and a fully fit Lucas Leiva, will be priorities for Rodgers come pre-season and the start of the new campaign. Whilst both players will be heartbroken to have been overlooked, it may just be a positive thing for them moving forwards.