When Lucas Leiva signed for Liverpool in 2007, it’s fair to say few fans expected him to still be plying his trade at Anfield a full decade later.
In spite of such longevity, the former Gremio man has often filled the role of scapegoat for season after season of underachievement.
Much of this criticism has been easy to understand thanks to an up and down career on Merseyside and a style of play that could perhaps be best described in pundit cliché bingo terms as “workmanlike”. When Lucas is playing well, it often goes unnoticed, when the opposite is true, it’s pretty impossible to miss.
Despite always seeming to be on the verge of an exit, the Brazilian’s durability and staying power shouldn’t be dismissed. Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish, Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp have all worked with on a daily basis and seen something that they liked. Put simply, if he were as dreadful as some on social media suggest, he would’ve been gone long before now.
Many were more than ready to see him leave in January, indeed he seemed to say his own goodbyes to the Kop with Inter Milan the rumoured destination. Instead, number 21 fought his way back into the picture, going on to play a crucial role in helping a side decimated by injury fight their way to within touching distance of Champions League qualification. With respect to the likes of Kevin Stewart, it’s not hard to envisage Liverpool’s season dying on its arse had he been called upon with regularity. As it was, Lucas helped to prevent a full-scale implosion on the pitch (if not on Twitter), putting in strong performances in strong performances against Arsenal, West Brom and Watford in particular.
With an eye on this summer and irrespective of whether Liverpool go ahead and do the decent thing against Middlesbrough (Please god let them do the decent thing), I think the decision of whether or not Lucas is still here next year will be the player’s.
I say this given that Klopp has suggested that he would like to keep him around for another year if possible and continues to select him to the matchday 18 as the pressure mounts. When you consider the extra strains placed on the squad by European football, this makes sense. So many additional games will require a large squad with the ability to rotate effectively. Other players also routinely speak of the positive impact that the 30-year-old veteran has on the dressing room, which would be lost if Liverpool were forced to sign a replacement without the same appreciation for the club, city, or fanbase.
No-one would be surprised to see Lucas Leiva in another team’s colours this August but given the way he’s proven an ability to contribute since the new year, he’s worth a new deal,-assuming he wants one.