Jason Harris discusses what Lucas Leiva has in store for Liverpool after 10 years at the club.
Whenever you mention the name Lucas Leiva amongst a group of Liverpool fans, you are sure to get a mixed response. While the overall quality of his play can be questioned, one thing that is not up for debate is the size of his heart and commitment to the cause. Whether it be in his customary defensive midfield role or filling in at centre-back, Lucas plays the game like every game is his last.
In this modern age of football with players moving from club to club, it is a rarity that someone spends a decade at a club, but that is exactly what the Brazilian has done. For all intents and purposes, it seems like Leiva has played his last season at the club, despite having a year to run on his contract. He has increasingly become a bit-part member of the squad and more than likely would want to end his career with more first team football, whether that be for another Premier League club, a club in Europe or back in his homeland in Brazil.
On Sunday, Kenny Dalglish presented the 30-year-old with a commemorative trophy for his service at the club and a very emotional Lucas said, “It’s been an incredible 10 years, we all know it’s been a little bit like a rollercoaster: a lot of ups and downs, but I’m so proud to wear this shirt every day of my life.“
A season of extremes
In terms of the season of the experienced Brazilian, it was certainly a mixture of great performances and defensive horror shows. Jürgen Klopp at times seemed to favour Lucas as a central defender ahead of the likes of Ragnar Klavan and Joe Gomez. What that says about the future of that duo at the club is up for debate, but Lucas was certainly a mixed bag in the position.
The away fixtures against Hull, Leicester and Bournemouth will not live long in the memory of anyone associated with the club and unfortunately, Leiva was at the heart of the misery with costly mistakes in each game. However, he balanced that out with a very strong performance at home against Tottenham keeping the skilful trio of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min at bay.
As the injuries mounted in the midfield during the second half of the season, Lucas returned to his usual position as a holding midfielder and allowing the developing Emre Can to add an attacking side to his game. Lucas was very solid against Merseyside rivals Everton, but his two most important performances came against West Brom and Watford.
His level of experience in those physical encounters was exactly what the team needed, and he was in the right spot to produce crucial assists in both games (Roberto Firmino against West Brom, and Can against Watford). Those wins proved the difference between finishing in the top four and Thursday Night Football in the Europa League. Whatever occurred previously, it was nice to see Lucas return to his rightful position and show that he could still produce a performance when it mattered most.
Lucas will have critics whatever he does and wherever he plays. The shielding position is where he plays his best football and the role has certainly evolved over the years. From previously being known as the “water carrier of the team” you now have the athletic and energetic type of player in the shape of N’Golo Kante from Chelsea.
It is far too late for Leiva to change his game and evolve into a physical specimen and to be honest, he just was never a player in the traditional Brazilian mould. That is not a problem, however, as what he lacks in technical skill, he makes up for in terms of grit and determination.
In the current world, you have players refusing to play in the position they are asked to if does not suit them as well other forms of petulant behaviour. Lucas is a shining example to put your head down and be an honest professional.
If his love for the team and the city of Liverpool sees him decide to stay, he will undoubtedly be a very good mentor for the younger members of the squad, and a handy depth player as the games will substantially increase with European Football returning to Anfield.
We have thought the Brazilian’s departure from the club has been imminent on many occasions in the past but if this indeed the final season for the Number 21, thank you for your many years of excellent service for the club.