Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic has been dropped by Serbia ahead of their upcoming Nations’ League fixture against Lithuania, following comments he made to their national press over the tactical decisions taken by coach Mladen Krstajic during this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Having started the group stages off well with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica, (a game in which Milivojevic played the full 90 minutes) Serbia found themselves in front against Switzerland early on thanks to a goal from Fulham striker and close friend of Luka’s, Aleksandar Mitrovic. Granit Xhaka equalised for this Swiss shortly after the second half began setting up a nerve-jangling conclusion to the clash for both sides.
Despite the game being balanced on a knife-edge, Krstajic decided to remove Milivojevic on 81 minutes, replacing him with attacking outlet Nemanja Radonjic in a bid to secure all three points, only for the move to backfire when Xherdan Shaqiri raced clear in the final moments to score and all but destroy Serbia’s chances of qualification to the knockout stages.
What went on behind closed doors in the aftermath of that result is anyone’s guess but against Brazil, Milivojevic was dropped to the substitutes’ bench, where he remained for the entirety of their 2-0 defeat. As you can see from his quotes linked at the top of the page, Luka spoke openly to the Serbian press about the mistakes he felt were made in both of the aforementioned fixtures, which almost certainly explains his omission from the latest squad.
Unfortunately, however strongly Milivojevic felt about the tactical calls that were taken, public criticism of the coach was always likely to end in his exclusion from the group in the short-term. At 27, the midfielder is currently in the prime of his career and would undoubtedly be a huge asset to the Serbian national set-up but for now, personal gripes look to have taken over from any appreciation of what he offers in the middle of the park.
At least he won’t be risking injury during the international break.