With the dark days behind him the boy from Brazil is back to his best
Lucas Leiva has played for four Anfield managers, had lengthy injuries and is back for Brazil
Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva is looking to become the Brazilian with the most Premier League games to his name. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Lucas Leiva was driving when his mobile suddenly started buzzing with an alarming frequency. With his wife expecting the couple’s second child imminently, the Liverpool midfielder pulled over to see whether she had indeed gone into labour.
She had not. The messages flooding into his phone were from fellow professionals, friends and family, congratulating him on his return to the Brazil squad after a two-year absence. There had been times Lucas thought the moment would never come.
Lucas’s Liverpool career has already included more highs and lows than most players experience in their whole careers. He arrived from Gremio in 2007 but initially struggled and was booed by his own fans in a home game against Fulham the following year. Then came the haircut, the resurrection and, with that, the adulation. Then, finally and disruptively, came the injuries. In November 2011, at a time when he had more caps for Brazil than Neymar, he tore a cruciate ligament in a League Cup tie at Chelsea and missed the rest of that season.
Upon his return, in August last year, he tore a hamstring during the warm-up before a league game against the same opponents. Amazingly he still tried to play but lasted only five minutes before being replaced. The injury left him depressed and fearing for his career.
“I had to search really deep for some strength because there were a couple of days I could barely move and the doctors did not even allow me to hold my baby son,” he says.
But it was also during that time that his fondness for his club, who face Newcastle in today’s lunchtime kick-off, reached a new level. “The club was amazing to me, supporters met me on the street and told me that things were going to be okay. And all the support I received then is the reason why I don’t really see myself playing for any other club if I have the choice. I’d love to have my testimonial at Anfield.
‘Grateful for everything’
“I have played under four managers at Liverpool and I am grateful for everything they have taught me,” he continues. “The thing with Brendan (Rodgers) is that he was here during the worst time of my career. His encouragement was crucial for me to come back from a bad place.”
Rodgers was not the only person at the club who supported Lucas during those dark days. The England captain, Steven Gerrard, was another. “When I was injured he sat down to talk to me a couple of times and was very encouraging,” Lucas says. “He is a vital player for this club. He is a legend at Liverpool and it is easy to see why he is also the England captain. He is also not as serious as people think and I’m delighted to be playing alongside him.”