Three things in life are certain. Tax, death and Lucas Leiva will stay at Anfield after looking destined to leave the club in the summer window. It looks now as if Jurgen Klopp has decided that Lucas is worth keeping around, and the news hasn’t pleased many.
There are few players who have split opinion more than the Brazilian in their time at Anfield. A simple Twitter search of ‘Lucas #LFC’ will tell you that. The majority of the Liverpool fan base, rather unsurprisingly, aren’t happy with the decision to keep the Brazilian around. Whilst the majority seem to think that Lucas is no longer good enough to be a part of the squad, there is the odd fan who believes he can still do a job at Anfield. Jürgen Klopp is obviously in the latter category.
Proving people wrong is nothing new to Lucas. Despite the fact he will be remembered when he finally does leave as a very good servant for us, he has had some immensely difficult times. When he first signed, it was clear for all to see that he struggled to adapt to English football. In hindsight, this was probably foreseeable. A Brazilian young midfielder from Gremio was probably never going to hit the ground running straight away. That didn’t stop Lucas taking heavy stick initially in his Anfield career from large parts of the Liverpool fan base (me included).
A turning point for Lucas was the 2009/10 season. After struggling for the previous two years and being in and out the side, Lucas was consistently in the side and began to find his feet. The sale of Xabi Alonso and the injury prone Alberto Aquilani meant the Reds’ midfield options were bare, and Lucas made 50 appearances that campaign as a result. Lucas carried this form on into the 2010/11 season, a turbulent season for Liverpool. Lucas was ever present in a poor Roy Hodgson and an exciting looking Kenny Dalglish side, notching up 47 appearances and winning the player of the season award.
Lucas started the following campaign, like Liverpool, looking good. He was making Charlie Adam look like a footballer and was really looking like the quality holding midfield player Liverpool had missed since Javier Mascherano’s departure. Unfortunately, disaster struck that year for Lucas. After just 15 appearances, Lucas suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury, ruling him out of the season. Liverpool never seemed to come back from this, with Jay Spearing the only alternative in midfield for struggling side that finished 8th.
Despite Lucas never really reaching the heights of his form in that campaign, every manager the Reds have had since have seen enough from him to keep him. And it hasn’t always been a popular choice. Lucas has predominantly been a squad player since, not reaching 40 appearances since that 2010/11 season.
Last year was a bizarre year for Lucas. The Brazilian made 38 appearances, the most he has made since the 2010/11 season, yet he was never really considered first choice for Jürgen Klopp. Despite starting in midfield in the impressive wins over Manchester City and Chelsea away early on in the Klopp reign, Lucas eventually lost his place to the more mobile and skilful Emre Can. Injuries meant Lucas found a new role in the side, with the Brazilian ending up at centre half for a spell. Lucas performed admirably and was positionally excellent, especially in the away FA cup tie against West Ham and in the League Cup final.
Something in Lucas’ performances last year has convinced Jürgen Klopp he’s worth keeping around. So what are the reasons behind this? Firstly, his experience in a very young Liverpool squad is essential. Lucas has big game experience. Lucas has Liverpool Football Club big game experience. The 4-1 win at Old Trafford, the 2-0 win against United at Anfield in 2009, The Uefa Cup quarter final win against Benfica in 2010, countless derby wins, the run in during the magical 2013/14 season, the league cup semi final victory against Stoke and the League Cup final in the same year. Lucas started in almost all of these memorable nights, and has the big game experience many of our current squad lack. Anyone who makes over 200 appearances for Liverpool and 24 for Brazil has to be equipped with mental toughness. The Reds have massively missed the experience of Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard since their departures, so any experience the club has they will hopefully hold on to.
Another bonus for Lucas is his versatility. Due to his new found centre back role, Lucas can now cover the midfield and the back four. Many dispute that he isn’t good enough for either of these roles due to his lack of pace, but critics aren’t new to Lucas. When he gets a run in the side, he improves game by game and is more than capable to do a job when required. Solid performances in midfield in wins at Chelsea and City, and in defence thwarting Sergio Aguero in the League Cup final, support this claim. I have no doubts that had he been in the side against Burnley, Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum will not have looked so hopeless on the day.
So there it is, Lucas isn’t a super star, or necessarily a fan favourite (nothing new), but he will do a solid job when required for the Reds this season. I don’t think anyone can dispute that the current squad can’t afford to lose a holding midfielder with big game, international experience. Especially one who loves the club. So lets get behind him.
Written by @JackMichell5