Player Profiles – Lucas Leiva
A hard-working box-to-box player who was captain of the Brazilian u-20 team. In October 2005 Lucas made his debut for Gremio in the Brazilian second division. Gremio were promoted and in Lucas’ first season in the top-flight in 2006 when Gremio finished third he became the youngest-ever player to receive Placar magazine’s Bola de Ouro (Golden Ball), given to the best player in the Brazilian league, an honour previously won by the likes of Zico, Falcao, Careca, Romario, Kaka and Carlos Tevez. Just before joining Liverpool, Lucas went all the way to the two-legged final in Copa Libertadores where Boca Juniors outplayed the Brazilian team, winning 5-0 on aggregate. BBC’s expert on South American football, Tim Vickery, was optimistic about Lucas’ chances of making a name for himself at Liverpool. “These moves are always a gamble, but I think this is a good one. He’s an exciting player of a type that Brazilian football hasn’t produced too many of recently. Of late their central midfielders have tended to be ‘holders’ who sit and allow the full-backs to push forward. Lucas is different. He’s a big, blonde figure whose power and physical strength comes with attacking ability. He can pass well and loves to rumble forward. He gets on the scoresheet both with blistering shots from range and from bursting beyond the strikers.”
Lucas took part in 32 competitive matches during his first season in English football. His highlight of the season came when he thundered an equalising goal into the top corner after non-League Havant & Waterlooville had taken a shock early lead in the FA Cup at Anfield in January 2008. Lucas was ‘capped’ by his country for the first time in August 2007 and played for Brazil’s Olympic team in Beijing 2008 that finished third. He was one of two Brazil players who were sent off in the semi-final defeat to Argentina. Alonso and Mascherano continued to be the preferred choice in midfield by Rafa in the 2008/09 season and Lucas only twice made the starting line-up. Lucas showed his inexperience when he was sent off after 75 minutes for a second booking when he brought down Joleon Lescott against Everton at Goodison Park in a FA Cup fourth round replay. Following Alonso’s move to Real Lucas featured more than ever before and only Reina (52), Carragher and Kuyt (53) played in more first-team matches than the previously much-maligned Lucas, in 2009/10. Scapegoat for many a poor team performance in the past, the young Brazilian, who turned 23 during the season, won over huge sections of the fanbase with assured displays that made him probably the most improved player of any of the first-team squad during the season. He was picked from the start for the first six matches of the season, something he had never achieved before, and continued to be a regular throughout the campaign. Lucas hardly put a foot wrong and was the fourth most prolific tackler in the Premier League.