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2014 could be Liverpool and Brazil star Lucas's best year yet

Holding midfielder proving his worth for Brendan Rodgers and could play a crucial role under Luiz Felipe Scolari at the World Cup

Lucas Leiva turns 27 today, an age which many consider to be the peak of a professional footballers’ career.

The little Brazilian is in his seventh season with Liverpool, and in that time he has overcome plenty of criticism and more than his fair share of injuries to become a key part of Brendan Rodgers’ ever improving side.

This season he has provided stability for Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho and the much-improved Jordan Henderson to create for strike duo Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, and his importance to the side cannot be underestimated.

His pass completion rate of 91.5% is up there with the best in the Premier League this season and while he started the season with a flurry of five yellow cards in his first seven matches, he has reined in his fiery side and has only been booked once more since September.

Last season, after returning from injury, Rodgers hailed the midfielder by saying, “his attitude and his application has been first class. He deserves every praise for the way he has conducted himself.”

Now Lucas’s application has shown as he has been a vital cog in Liverpool’s rise from also-rans to strong contenders for Champions League qualification - appearing in 17 of their first 20 league games.

This is a fantastic return to form for a player who missed eight months with a knee ligament injury, which cost him the chance to appear in the 2012 League Cup final, the only trophy Liverpool have won during his time at the club, and then missed another three months last season due to a thigh problem.

If Lucas can keep performing at this level, and showing the guile which first made Rafael Benitez decided to bring him to Anfield from Gremio, he will surely be given another chance to star in a trophy-winning side soon.

The defensive midfielder’s form has not gone unnoticed in his homeland and after a period away from the Selecao squad, Lucas featured in four friendlies late last year, starting against Zambia and coming on as a substitute against Honduras, South Korea and Chile.

With a home World Cup coming up this summer, Lucas’s form for Liverpool could see him warrant a starting place in the opening match of the tournament against Croatia, where his defensive discipline and controlled passing could be crucial in allowing Neymar and Brazil’s other players to fulfil their potential.

Appreciated more since his return from injury and now an automatic pick for Liverpool, Lucas knows 2014 could be his best year yet.

image: © faisalzaman

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