Anfield side will greatly miss in-form Brazilian.
In 2007 Liverpool FC announced they had captured a young, talented, Brazilian footballer. It had many fans dreaming of the next Ronaldinho, Rivaldo or even Pele. So after completing his transfer to Liverpool from Brazilian club Gremio, Lucas Leiva had a lot of pressure on him. Not only because he came from Brazil, home of some of the most talented footballers ever seen in the world, but he had also cost the club over £5 million, who had managed to beat Italian giants AC Milan and Inter Milan to his signature.
So when Lucas finally made his debut for the club, there was a lot of confusion and head scratching amongst fans. Supporters saw less of the samba footwork that can baffle a defence, and instead saw the Brazilian passing backwards to his defence, and shying away from goal to instead look for a pass. Luckily Lucas was forgiven, as he was young and still adapting to the English game. So by the end of the season surely there would be some change in how Lucas Leiva played. Err no. Instead the Kop was adapting their original ideas of him being the next Zico.
So entering the 2008 season, Liverpool had a world class midfield selection of Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso and captain Steven Gerrard. The perfect opportunity for Lucas to train with some of the best players in the league and improve. But he was still struggling to impress the fans on the pitch, and complaints were made that Lucas was playing instead of internationals Alonso or Mascherano. By 2010 these two charismatic players had been sold, and Lucas had his chance to impress. Collecting valuable game time, the little Brazilian started to show the fans what his actual job was.
Although “the Liverpool way” doesn’t suggest a defensive, holding midfielder, Lucas demonstrated to the fans that by holding himself back on attacks, he was able to help the defence, and allow the club’s most influential player, Steven Gerrard, a more free role. Lucas was voted the Standard Chartered Fans player of the year for the 2010-11 season, and also made the most tackles in the top 4 European leagues in that season.
The Brazilian has now become one of the most popular and important players at the club, being one of the first players on the team sheet along with Pepe Reina and Steven Gerrard (when fit.) This season has seen the continuation of Lucas’s influence on the pitch, making an average of 5.5 tackles a game, and completing 687 passes at an accuracy of 86%. But what the stats can’t show is how he keeps his opposite number out of the game. In recent games against Chelsea and Man City, Lucas had been the man of the match for the Reds. He has restricted the time on the ball Ramires, Lampard, Barry and Silva have had on the ball, and stopped the likes of Drogba and Aguero from getting the ball frequently.
So why was he playing against Chelsea in the League Cup quarter final just 48 hours after playing Manchester City. A lack of silverware at the club over the last 5 years had meant King Kenny is now interested in winning the Carling Cup. Whereas Sir Alex rested many of his key players, Dalglish played Lucas to ensure a semi-final draw. But this was at an almighty cost. A challenge with Juan Mata left the Brazilian on the floor clutching his knee. After suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Lucas won’t be seen again this season.
With captain Steven Gerrard soon to be back from injury, the Lucas role will be heavily placed on the shoulders of Scotsman Charlie Adam. The midfielder was purchased for his passing ability that helped Blackpool do the double over his new club, but will now need to control the middle of the pitch with the same authority and consistency that Lucas did. It may also mean that Gerrard cannot play as forward as he would want, as understandably Adam will be itching to push up the field, leaving the defence more exposed than usual.
But what will it mean for Liverpool? Will they have less control against their opposition? Will the distribution change without Lucas, and will the defence concede more? And what will Kenny do in the January transfer window? He has month to observe his team without Lucas, but will he find a replacement in the new year, or spend that money on another Striker? Only time will tell, but what we do know is the loss of Lucas is a hugely expensive blow for the Reds. Who would have thought we would be saying that 3 years ago?