After a decade of loyal service, Lucas Leiva is leaving Liverpool. With over 340 competitive appearances for the Reds under his belt, the 30-year-old midfielder is on his way to Italy to join Lazio and while he hasn’t necessarily been a key player under Jurgen Klopp or Brendan Rodgers, both managers frequently relied on the experience and consistency brought to the table by the Brazilian, especially in times of need when ‘big name’ players suffered injuries or a new approach was required.
As Lucas departs for pastures new, let’s take a quick look at what Liverpool will be missing in his absence.
Despite only captaining the Liverpool side on a handful of occasions, Lucas has been a quietly influential figure amongst his teammates. When Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano moved on in 2009 and 2010 respectively, Lucas became increasingly-effective in the middle of the park, frequently garnering praise for his ability to read the game and break up opposition play, allowing his more creative counterparts to get forward into better attacking positions. In the absence of Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard, Lucas became Liverpool’s longest-serving player, providing much-needed calm and resolve in a comparatively young squad when on the pitch, and embracing the community around him as an “adopted Scouser” when off it. The Reds will miss that veteran influence in the months to come.
When Lucas arrived from Gremio in 2007, he was considered to be a box-to-box midfielder with the potential to be the “new Gerrard” (I distinctly remember someone saying that at the time, honestly!). However, as the seasons wore on and criticism of his performances intensified, he was gradually pushed back into a defensive role until the key attributes of his playing style began to shine – his work rate, tenacity and tactical awareness. At one time, he was among the best defensive midfielders in the league.
For several years, Lucas thrived in that role and became an integral member of the squad, until new younger incomings meant his position as a starting player came under threat. His versatility, however, ensured that he remained at Liverpool despite being constantly linked with a move away for the last few seasons – Klopp frequently preferred him to Ragnar Klavan in a centre-back role, and his hard-working nature resulted in a string of good performances in that position last season. Lucas is perhaps one of the older breed of players who’s willing to play anywhere if it means getting to play at all (like James Milner).
3) Ability and Determination
Lucas isn’t the best midfielder Liverpool have ever had. He is, however, one of the most endearing, largely because of what he offers on the pitch and his desire to keep improving. Runs of successive wins and solid performances for Liverpool throughout the last few seasons often correlate with Lucas’s inclusion in the starting XI because, as previously stated, his defensive ability allows the players in front of him to relax, focus on their task, and score goals; Gerrard was often able to bomb forward because he trusted Lucas to break up any opposition counter attack, and more recent attacking cohorts have been freed up to produce dazzling displays of offensive prowess because they had an experienced veteran shielding their defence. Even in times of adversity, Lucas got his head up and pushed on, proving that sheer hard work and belief are sometimes preferable to clever tricks and step-overs.
Lucas will of course miss Liverpool, where he’s spent the last 10 years of his playing career through a variety of highs and lows. And without a doubt, Liverpool fans and players will miss Lucas.