Club Focus – Liverpool – Lucas’ journey from zero to Kop hero

With another fascinating season soon to come to a close, this is generally the time of year when fans begin to cast their mind back over the hectic campaign and seek out the stand-out performer for their club. For Liverpool supporters, selecting a ‘player of the season’ this year could be difficult, given that many of their stars did not hit top form until Kenny Dalglish took over the managerial reins in January. However, many Reds fans are now beginning to realise the importance of one particular player, who has arguably been the most consistent for the Anfield outfit over the past two seasons.

Lucas Leiva was by no means a firm fans’ favourite when he joined the club back in the summer of 2007. In fact, the Brazilian midfielder was often criticised during his first couple of seasons as he struggled to adapt to English football. Yet now, Lucas is considered to be one of Liverpool’s most important players. Opta stats reveal the 24-year-old as being the top tackler in the Premier League this season, while only Martin Skrtel has made more outfield appearances than Lucas this campaign.

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And the former Gremio star, who recently signed a new contract with the Merseysiders, is not afraid by the prospect of extra competition next season. Lucas has had to improve significantly to fill the gap left first by world-class defensive-midfielder Xabi Alonso and Argentinean skipper Javier Mascherano, but he has stepped up to the plate in impressive fashion.

Speaking about his chances of keeping a place next season, Lucas said: “I am happy with the way I am playing. A lot of players have come already and I am still here and playing so that means they believe in my football and my qualities. Next season we will see what happens. They will sign players, of course, but I think I have shown I am capable of being in the team all the time. I have to finish well and keep that up next season, improve and fight for my place.”

When Lucas first arrived at the club, other senior players were helping him to ease into life in the Premier League. Now, he finds himself helping young Jay Spearing to adjust to top-flight football. Lucas said: “To the younger players I am already old, but I am still learning. When I arrived in Liverpool a lot of people helped me to learn and that is what I am doing now, trying to give Jay some confidence on the pitch.”

The once much-maligned Brazilian midfielder appears to have finally come of age and has matured in a Reds shirt, and the fact he has been rewarded with a new contract suggests that Lucas still has a key role to play in the future. Having enjoyed yet another successful campaign at Anfield, it would not surprise fans if Lucas went on to be awarded the club’s ‘player of the season’ award. Many would suggest he fully deserves it.

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