Few footballers have reinvented themselves and come back from the very brink of being obsolete more times than Lucas Leiva at Liverpool. Signed under Rafa Benitez in 2007 and quickly written off as a transfer gamble that didn’t pay off, the Brazilian revived himself by gradually moving from an attacking midfield berth to an anchoring role in the middle of the park, before injury hit him hard in the early 2010s. Alas, the now 30-year-old was not beaten by this and has battled back, even though each summer sees him come close to leaving Anfield for pastures new.
This may well end up being the final chapter of Lucas’ Liverpool career, though, with his contract due to end in a few months’ time, but he’s still proving his worth when the occasions call for him. Parachuted into the Reds’ three-man midfield – to the dismay of plenty of Kopites – amid injuries for the Merseyside Derby vs. Everton on Saturday, the experienced South American was dubbed a weak link by many ahead of kick-off, but he may well have been the most important player on the pitch…
While Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho earned the headlines, Lucas played a pivotal role in reducing the Premier League’s top scorer, Romelu Lukaku, to a peripheral role throughout the 90 minutes, working expertly in tandem with Dejan Lovren to shackle him. Indeed, the Liverpool man made an on-pitch high of nine tackles and won a team-best nine aerial duels, both of which were key in his aforementioned feat, while weighing in with three interceptions. Lucas even managed to lay off the pass for Coutinho’s solo goal to make it 2-1, albeit calling this an assist may be generous, as well as touching the ball 90 times and playing 68 passes.
If it’s to be a Merseyside Derby farewell, it was a good one!