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 have had their best start to a season since 2008-09 and take on Newcastle second in the table, level on points with Arsenal at the top. Lucas is encouraged but not carried away. “Look, we have obviously got some encouraging results from the first games and no one will complain about being top of the table. But we would be silly to get too excited after seven games.
“The Premiership is a long and tough journey and we just have to look at our defeat (at home) to Southampton to see that. But I’ll give you one thing: maybe we would have drawn that game against Stoke last season (they won 1-0 after a late penalty save by Simon Mignolet). There’s a feeling that a couple of things went our way (this time round). But ask me again how I feel in January, because that’s when we will really know what we can achieve this season.”
A potential title charge has been mentioned but Lucas, for the time being, wants to focus on a place in the top four. “I don’t see why we should get ahead of ourselves. The race for the top four will be extremely close this year and I still think we are underdogs, given how much money some of our opponents have invested. We also lost some important players like (Pepe Reina) and have already had injuries to players such as Philippe (Coutinho).”
Lucas’s caution is down to having seen green shoots fade away before. He is now Liverpool’s third-longest serving player behind Gerrard and Daniel Agger and when he arrived at the club they had just played in a second Champions League final in three seasons. Since 2009, Lucas and his team-mates’ only experience of those European nights have come from the TV or game consoles. That hurts.
Keeping Luis Suarez last summer was key for the club’s ambitions and Lucas, who is a close friend of the Uruguayan, is understandably delighted that his team-mate stayed. “Luis is one hell of a player and I know him well enough to say that maybe he’s competitiveness sometimes comes out too strong. But he’s been one of the best players in the Premiership since he arrived, so it’s great that he stayed with us.”
Still only 26
It seems extraordinary that Lucas is still only 26. Brazilian journalists often joke that he has been a veteran since his youth academy days and there is some truth in that. When he signed for Liverpool he had just become the youngest ever winner of the Bola de Ouro, Brazil’s version of the Ballon d’Or. His name pops up on a list alongside others such as Zico, Falcao and Ronaldinho. Back then, when Rafael Benitez paid £5 million for Lucas, he was an attacking midfielder with an eye for goal.