Ever since Rafael Benitez departed his post at Liverpool in June 2010, Lucas Leiva’s prospects at Anfield have been on the decline.
It was the Spanish tactician who brought the Brazilian to Merseyside as a 20-year-old from Gremio in the summer of 2007, easing him into life in the Premier League.
Lucas’s involvement for the Reds grew year-on-year with Benitez at the helm but the trend was reversed following his departure, leaving him on the fringes at present.
After injury limited the midfielder to just 20 starts last year, he has been a peripheral figure for Brendan Rodgers's team this term – just 125 minutes of action in the top flight to date.
A solid performance against Real Madrid in the Champions League seemed to raise his stock, but just 24 hours later the Brazil international dropped an exit hint.
For much of 2014, it’s looked that if Lucas is to depart, it will be to Napoli – known to be in pursuit of his services over the summer.
Of course, Benitez is the man on the Partenopei bench, meaning at the San Paolo Lucas would be reuniting with the man who initially brought him to Europe seven years ago.
Despite missing out on Lucas months ago and signing David Lopez and Jonathan De Guzman to bolster his midfield, Benitez is still thought to be keen to take Lucas to southern Italy.
And the 27-year-old’s agent told Calciomercato that a January move away from Liverpool is a distinct possibility, with Benitez looming large in his client’s mind.
Henrique Coelho said: “Is it possible Lucas Leiva will leave Liverpool in January? Yes, naturally.
“Lucas Leiva really likes Rafa Benitez, considering that the two know each other well from when the Spaniard was the manager of Liverpool.”
A move in the New Year would be natural for Lucas. To many, it’s a surprise that he’s stuck around this long at Anfield. A summer sale looked quite likely for some time.
For the good of his career, seeking new pastures looks the best choice he could make. At Napoli he’d have more opportunities under Benitez and a chance to get back into the Brazil squad as well.
Unless things change quickly for him at Liverpool, the end of the line seems near with January closing in.
Benitez may well push for Napoli president Aurelio Di Laurentiis to write the cheque to bring Lucas to his current club, a solution that would clearly be pleasing to the Brazilian.