After Liverpool started their 2015/16 campaign on Sunday with victory away at Stoke, reports started to filter through on social media that long serving centre midfielder Lucas Leiva had fallen out with Liverpool staff and is expected to depart before the transfer window shuts.
Personally, I was gutted after seeing the news. I think he does a really important job in Brendan Rodgers’ team that a lot of people don’t see, breaking up play and doing the things that goes unnoticed without the credit he probably deserves.
Since joining from Brazilian club Gremio in 2007 it’s fair to say it took the fans a few years to warm to him. During a 0-0 draw against Fulham back in 2008 a group of fans even took to booing him, very harsh for a 21 year old boy in a new country. Perhaps joining for a fee of £7 million after captaining Brazil Under 20’s, lead to fans expecting too much too soon and put unnecessary pressure on him. Either way, he certainly didn’t let it get to him as his performances went from strength to strength.
After Xabi Alonso left Merseyside for Madrid, Lucas found his playing time in then manager, Rafa Benitez’s team increase. Even the £18 million signing Alberto Aquilani couldn’t budge Lucas from the starting line up. He was still struggling to win over the fans, however.
It wasn’t until 2010/11 when Lucas started being one of the first names on a fans team sheet and a solid campaign saw him win Liverpool’s Player of the Year Award. Unfortunately, midway through the following season he suffered an anterior cruciate injury during a League Cup quarter final against Chelsea. This made him miss the rest of the season. But all was not lost.
Brendan Rodgers took over at Liverpool following Kenny Dalglish’s sacking in June 2012 and was positive about the prospect of having Lucas back fit stating:
“He is going to be a brilliant player for me in my career here at Liverpool and I’m looking forward to seeing him fully fit.”
Injuries have often stopped the now 28 year old from getting a regular run of games, which is probably one of the reasons Liverpool are willing to listen to offers. At 28, he still has market value, around £8 million if you believe the papers. A lot more than what the club would receive in another two years.
The signings of Joe Allen, Emre Can and now, James Milner have seen him drop down the pecking order. However, it is interesting to point out that under Rodgers, Liverpool gain around 0.3 points more when Lucas is in the team as opposed to when he is missing.
Personally, I’ll be sad to see him go (if he goes), even now, I don’t believe we have a better defensive midfielder and he knows what it means to play for the club.
Rumours are linking him with a move to Italy, with Napoli and Inter Milan reported to have enquired about his availability. A slower league in Serie A will probably see him continue to be a great performer as, if he keeps the injuries at bay he has another 5 years at top level in him.
Whatever has happened in terms of the falling out, I hope they can come to some civil agreement, hopefully he plays his way back into Rodgers’ plans because I think he’s a vital in protecting a very inconsistent back four.