The importance of Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva

There is no doubt the likes of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard will naturally take the headlines, but for Liverpool one man is arguably more important - Brazil’s Lucas Leiva.

Lucas, 26, started his career at Gremio as a box-to-box midfielder in 2005. It was with Gremio where his performances helped the side win the Rio Grande do Sul state championship, and in doing so he became the youngest player to receive the Bola de Ouro (Golden ball), which is given to the best player in the Brazilian Championship.

The Brazilian was then linked to a host of European clubs, including the likes of Inter Milan, Porto and Chelsea, but it was Liverpool who won the race to sign him, and in May 2007 the Reds confirmed his transfer for a reported bargain fee of £6m.

Then Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez eased him into a midfield already containing star players such as Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano. Despite having a solid Olympics in Beijing in 2008, however, Lucas was then subject to boos by some sections of the Liverpool fans, and his sending off during the Merseyside derby cup game that season angered supporters even further.

Fast forward four years, and now Lucas Leiva is a Brazilian international and regarded as a key member of a Liverpool side currently second in the Premier League.

The central midfielder suffered a horrible knee ligament injury during November, 2011, and subsequently missed the rest of the season. Following the appointment of Brendan Rodgers, Lucas’s injury troubles didn’t go away. He missed the start of the 2012/13 season, which coincided with Liverpool’s poor early season form. Since making his return in December 2012, Liverpool had a solid second half to the season and are now regarded as genuine title contenders; Lucas has been irreplaceable.

Lucas has made 13 appearances this season, in which he averages a credible 60.8 passes per game and with 91.1% success rate - epitomizing the Brendan Rodgers style - and is comparable with the very best in the Premier League.

Defensively, he’s even more impressive - making on average 4.5 tackles per game, more tackles than any other player in the PL and 2.8 interceptions, the League’s 6th best. Statistically speaking, you’d struggle to find a better defensive midfielder than Lucas Leiva.

As long as he stays injury free, you’d back Liverpool  and Lucas for a guaranteed Champions League place come the end of the season.

How important is Lucas Leiva to Liverpool’s top 4 hopes ?

image: © faisalzaman

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