Juninho Pernambucano has accused Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari of trying to force Lucas out of the Selecao squad and ruining a talent comparable to Neymar.
Lucas, 21, was in the latest Brazil squad for their friendlies in South Korea and China, but after being an unused substitute in the first game in Seoul, he started the second game in Beijing -- a 2-0 defeat of Zambia only to be hauled off at the break.
The back-to-back friendlies mirrored the Paris Saint-Germain starlet's habitually peripheral role for his country under Scolari, who Juninho, 38, believes is attempting to ease the youngster out of the international scene ahead of next summer's World Cup
"He's just arrived in France, and still hasn't had a full season," Juninho told RMC. "He needs time. In nine internationals, he's started once and was taken off. The truth is that Scolari doesn't want Lucas, but he can't accept that. Little by little, he is making the player lose confidence. That often happens in Brazil. It's really a shame. Scolari doesn't really want Lucas. Little by little, he is forcing him out of the squad."
Since his 42 million euro move from Sao Paulo to PSG, which was signed and sealed in summer 2012 but only completed last January, Lucas has yet to fully establish himself in the French capital. After ten appearances last season under Carlo Ancelotti, the Brazilian has made just four starts in eight league outings under Laurent Blanc this term, though he did score his first Ligue 1 goal earlier this season.
Juninho, a key member of the Lyon team which won seven successive Ligue 1 titles, has no doubt his young compatriot will come good in Europe, just as his one-time peer Neymar is doing at Barcelona.
"I saw Lucas explode onto the scene in Brazil with Neymar. Everyone wanted him to be used on the left in the national team with Neymar on the right and with a centre-forward. The coaches have never done that. But I don't think he's over-rated. He's an excellent player," the Vasco da Gama midfielder said.
"Lucas was as well-known as Neymar in Brazil. He was very good before he arrived at PSG. He was, at one time, ahead of Neymar in people's minds, even if he's less technical and scores fewer goals. But at that moment, he didn't play a lot with the national team. Imagine the pressure he was under against Zambia. I also had that in the national team under Carlos Alberto Parreira. He told me that I was behind Ronaldinho and Kaka in the pecking order. I replied: 'Is that all?'"