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
In England, however, he was immediately switched to a more defensive role by Benitez as a way into the Liverpool team. “Well, Liverpool had Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso ahead of me in the pecking order. In football and in life you have to adapt to survive,” he says.
Since then, the team have gone through a lot of changes, including the retirement of Jamie Carragher. By the time Carragher called it a day Lucas had developed a way to understand the defender’s thick scouse accent and now enjoys watching his former team-mate working as a pundit on TV. “I think he’s been very comfortable and funny. It didn’t surprise me he could talk about the game, but he really adapted fast to it. It means we’ve got a good match for (his fellow Sky pundit) Gary Neville now.”
The return to the Brazil squad for the matches against South Korea and Zambia last week was confirmation that Lucas has rediscovered some of his form. Before the surprise call-up the coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, checked with an old friend from his Stamford Bridge days as to whether the midfielder was ready. Rodgers, who worked with Scolari at Chelsea, told the Brazil manager that Lucas was ready. “The call-up came out of the blue,” he says. “It’s not that I had given up my dream to play in a World Cup at home for Brazil but it was just that time was running out, with every game I wasn’t picked for.”
Praised for performance
Lucas was praised in the Brazilian press for his performance against Zambia alongside his fellow Premier League players Paulinho, David Luiz and Ramires. Scolari said he had played well and selecting the Liverpool player ahead of the success story of the recent Confederations Cup, Luiz Gustavo, was encouraging. “Lucas plays regularly in the Premiership and has been together with many of the Selecao players here,” Scolari said. “He is tactically sound and his protection of the back four is very important.”
It sounds as if Lucas may well become the first Liverpool player to represent Brazil at a World Cup. Before that, the 22-times capped midfielder can achieve another milestone, to become the Brazilian with the most Premier League games to his name.
He is currently 15 behind Gilberto Silva, who played 170 for Arsenal. “Yes, that would be nice but Gilberto won the league twice, didn’t he?” Lucas says.
“Much as I am honoured to have established myself in England, it’s the trophies that will make people remember you.”