It took a bit of a hiatus but we are back with the triumphant return of Liverpool Lore. Today’s featured player is a man who won over some stubborn fans with sheer determination, Lucas Leiva.
Lucas was a Brazilian defensive midfielder that never learned the flair and pizzazz of some of his more famous countrymen.
He joined Liverpool for £5 million from Brazilian side Gremio in 2007. Then Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was very excited to bring him into the side. However, he eased Leiva into the squad as he did not make his first start until December of that season.
Later that campaign, Lucas netted his first goal for the club and in doing so became the first Brazilian player to ever score for the Reds. A very unique distinction for a defensive midfielder and that should make for great bar trivia.
Entering his second season at Anfield the midfield was stocked full of talent with the likes of Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard.
This high level of compatriots in the midfield led to the hope Lucas would take his game to the next level. As it happened, he struggled to find consistency on a week-to-week basis. A string of disappointing performances saw fans and pundits coming down hard on him.
While Benitez came to his defense, it would ultimately be the player that changed the trajectory of his career.
It became clear his confidence needed repairing and some luck to go his way to right the ship. Some big-time performances in the latter stages of the 2008-09 season gave some optimism to a turnaround in the following year.
Leiva continued to put out solid outings in what became a flawed Liverpool side at the time. With Alonso gone to Real Madrid and Mascherano soon to follow him out the exit on his way to Barcelona, Lucas was the last man standing in the deep midfield.
Following a 2010-11 season that saw Lucas make 47 appearances in all competitions, he was awarded Liverpool’s Player of the Year award.
It was quite a stark turnaround from the unhappy days of being booed off the field against Fulham a few years earlier.
This saw him sign a new long-term deal to stay with the Reds. However, the next couple of years saw him struggle with injuries that halted the good momentum he had been building.
During the 2014-15 season Leiva finally got his fulltime role back in the Starting XI. He became an important player once again, this time under Brendan Rodgers. His senior status within the club made him a crucial player for Jurgen Klopp as he took control in late 2015.
Klopp continued to trust Lucas in the heart of his defense and ran him out in important matches including the 2016 League Cup Final.
The 2016-17 season saw the Brazilian play 32 times including scoring his first goal in seven years. Unfortunately, this would turn to be his final season with Liverpool.
At 30, Leiva left Anfield for pastures anew in Italy as he joined Lazio for £5 million. On his departure, Lucas showed a bit of regret but his logic was still sound.
“Liverpool is one of the greatest clubs in the world, and my intention had always been to spend the rest of my career here,” the 24-times capped Brazilian said.
“But the less I have been able to play, the more I have realized that I need to go to another club if I want to play as much as I possibly can.
The easiest thing for me to do would be to stay here for as long as I can even if I do not expect to play so often, but that would go against everything that I believe in as a footballer and as a competitor.”
He would go on to play almost 200 times in Italy so he got the playing time he wanted. However, taking a look at his Liverpool career that saw him in England for 10 years and 346 appearances is a testament to never give in to your critics.
They were not always great times during his tenure, but his perseverance is something that any Liverpool fan can appreciate.
He may not have brought the Brazilian flash and pomp but he replaced it with his own brand of tenacity and heart. You never had to doubt that he was leaving everything out there, no matter what level his game was at.
Lucas walked at Liverpool so Fabinho could run. He won’t be forgotten anytime soon for his endeavors.