What next for Lucas Leiva?

Lucas Leiva, Liverpool’s Player of the Season 2010/11, is something few Liverpool fans would have expected to hear only a couple years ago. But the midfielder’s fantastic surge in form had seen the Brazilian become a crucial part of Kenny Dalglish’s winning formulae last season. But with the raft of new midfield talent arriving at Anfield this summer, is Lucas going to be the unfortunate sacrifice in Dalglish’s remodeling on Merseyside?

There already has been some transfer whispers that this is the case but at present this just remains speculation. But with Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam joining the club there is no doubt some current Liverpool players may have to make way or accept a smaller role in the team next season.

Lucas experienced a very slow start to his Liverpool career. He joined the club in July 2007 from Gremio. The capture of a 20-year-old Brazilian was obviously an exciting prospect for Liverpool fans at the time but unfortunately Lucas struggled to find his feet at Anfield behind Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano. But after both left it gave him a chance to take centre stage and the fact that he won Young Player of the Season for 2009-10 season and then went on last year to win Player of the Season shows how far the midfielder has come.

Lucas’ success last season came after often playing that anchorman role, shielding the defence and setting up play for Liverpool’s more attack-minded stars. Lucas’ role next season may depend on what formation Dalglish uses to accommodate his new signings. Downing is the only purchase that offers real width so the main competition for places will remain in the centre of midfield. The fact that neither Henderson nor Adams have similar styles of play to Lucas will benefit the Brazilian as he can offer a more defensive approach when required. But if Dalglish aims for a more attacking Liverpool, utilising those new signings, Lucas may be the unfortunate player to make way in the starting line up. But the talent he showed last season has no place on the bench and that’s where Liverpool may come unstuck in their desire to keep hold of him.

Business wise there could also be some doubt over Lucas’ Anfield future. Spending as much money as Dalglish has since January means that the books will need to be balanced in some way. The deadwood around Liverpool (Joe Cole, Alberto Aquilani, Christian Poulsen etc.) would be the first to try and be shifted but if that is unsuccessful there could be plenty of suitors to take Lucas off Liverpool’s hands at the right price.

Much of Liverpool’s success, even through the bleak spells of recent seasons, has come down to the continued development of Lucas. Dalglish has clearly pinpointed the need for more attack-minded midfielders but their arrivals and the transfer fees paid for them should not overshadow Lucas’ key role in the Liverpool midfield.

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