|Date of Birth||
9 January 1987
|Place of Birth||
1.79 m (5'10 1/2")
Lucas Pezzini Leiva (born 9 January 1987) is a Brazilian international midfielder who spent ten years playing as a midfielder and occasionally as a centre-back for Liverpool.
Liverpool career Edit
On 13 May 2007 Liverpool confirmed the transfer of Lucas from Gremio in a deal reported to be worth in the region of €6,000,000. On 26 July 2007 he was officially unveiled as a Liverpool player and was given international clearance to compete in the final of the Barclay's Asia Trophy. On July 27, he made his debut in the match against Portsmouth as a substitute for Momo Sissoko in the second half.
Lucas made his competitive debut for Liverpool on 28 August 2007 against Toulouse in a Champions League qualifying game, again replacing Sissoko as a substitute, in the 68th minute. His first start came against Reading in the League Cup third round on 25 September 2007. He made his first league appearance on 20 October 2007 against Everton. Lucas scored his first goal for Liverpool on 27 January 2008 when he curled a 25-yard shot into the top corner during an FA cup match against Havant & Waterlooville and as a result became the first Brazilian to score for Liverpool.
Lucas endured a difficult start to his Liverpool career and he was frequently heckled by his own supporters. Lucas came to Liverpool having spent most of his young career in Brazil as a more creative midfielder, but at Liverpool was expected to perform a more defensive midfield role. As Lucas struggled to adapt to this new role, he picked up red cards and was perceived to be at fault for a number of goals by the Anfield faithful.
After hearing criticism of Leiva, manager at the time Rafael Benitez jumped to the Brazilian's defence saying "People just don't know how good Lucas is. He is a fantastic player, he was captain of his club side at 19 and has already won full caps with Brazil. He has a very good mentality. When you talk of Brazilian players you know they are skilful with ability. But Lucas is a worker and has a very good approach. He can tackle, he can pass the ball and he can win in the air. He is still a very young player learning to live in a different country."
Lucas continued to struggle to win over the fans for some time, however his luck began to change around the time when Javier Mascherano departed the club in the summer of 2010. He had already shown promising signs in the previous season, however following Mascherano's departure, Lucas was left as the club's only defensive midfielder and he began to show a marked improvement in his game thereafter. He developed a reputation as a 'big-game' player, excelling in matches against the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, helping Liverpool to win the midfield battle against these clubs. He was one of the few players who escaped criticism during Roy Hodgson's short and ill-fated reign and continued to shine under Kenny Dalglish. Proof that Lucas had finally won over the Liverpool fans came in the summer of 2011, when they voted Lucas the Standard Chartered Player of the Season for 2010-11.
Lucas continued in outstanding form in the 2011-12 season and gave particularly impressive performances in Liverpool's matches in November 2011 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and at home to Manchester City, who had made a record-breaking start to the Premier League season. On 29 November, Lucas suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage to his knee during the League Cup quarter final against Chelsea and had to be stretchered off. This ruled Lucas out for the remainder of the season, which was met with a great deal of dismay from the Liverpool fans.
In the summer of 2012, Liverpool appointed Brendan Rodgers as the new manager. Rodgers spoke glowingly about Lucas when he first came into the club, speaking of him as a player he would like to build his team around. In the club's pre-season tour of North America, Rodgers was famously captured on the Being Liverpool TV documentary giving his team a pre-match pep talk, speaking about the dedication Lucas had shown in recovering from his injury, and telling his team to 'do it [win the match] for Lucas.' Lucas made his return to competitive football on 2 August 2012 in a Europa League qualifying match against FC Gomel of Belarus. On 12 August, Lucas netted a rare goal in a friendly win against Bayer Leverkusen, tapping in a loose ball from a free kick. Unfortunately on 26 August 2012, in a home League game against Manchester City, Lucas had to be substituted with only five minutes played with a thigh injury. The injury ruled Lucas out for over three months. On 1 December 2012, Lucas made his second return from injury, playing almost the whole game in a 1-0 victory over Southampton.
On 11 February 2013, Lucas made his 200th appearance for Liverpool in a home League tie against West Brom. Unfortunately the match would not be one to remember for Lucas as Liverpool disappointingly lost 2-0. Lucas went on to play a large part in Liverpool's season as the Reds ended the season strongly.
For the 2013-14 season, Brendan Rodgers retained Lucas in his preferred three-man midfield alongside Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson. Liverpool faired well in the first half of the season, however from the new year, Rodgers altered his tactics and deployed Gerrard in the anchoring position more usually adopted by Lucas, whilst relegating Lucas to the bench in favour of including a further attacking player in his team. With Gerrard in this position, Lucas's options were limited during the remainder of the season, with Joe Allen leapfrogging the Brazilian in the midfield pecking order. When Lucas was called upon, it was usually in a more advanced position than he was used to. On 6 April 2014, Lucas was brought on as a substitute in Liverpool's away match against West Ham. With the score tied at 1-1, Lucas's introduction was widely cited as the primary reason behind the Reds' improvement, with a 2-1 win ultimately being sealed that maintained Liverpool's title challenge. Lucas continued to appear sporadically for the remainder of the season, making some starts whilst other team mates were unavailable. However his diminishing role in the Liverpool team led to some speculation that he may be sold in the 2014 summer transfer window.
On 6 May 2014, at Liverpool's end-of-season prize-giving ceremony, Lucas won the inaugral Bill Shankly Award, as "someone who has upheld the club's values, showing dignity, unity, commitment and ambition." Specifically, this award was a reflection of his work with the Liverpool F.C. Foundation.
Over the summer, Liverpool further strengthened their central midfield options with the purchase of Emre Can whilst rumours of an Anfield exit continued to circulate over Lucas. Despite this however, Lucas was a surprise starter in the Reds' 2014-15 season curtain-raiser at home to Southampton. Lucas was substituted midway through the second half with the score at 1-1 and Southampton putting Liverpool under much pressure. The Reds however went on to win 2-1.
On 23 September 2014, Lucas played all 120 minutes of Liverpool's League Cup clash with Middlesbrough at Anfield. He produced a very commendable performance, holding down the midfield with his only partner in the centre of the park being first Jordan Rossiter, then Jordan Williams- two young debutants from Liverpool's Academy. He suffered cramp in the match but still managed to dispatch two good penalties in the penalty shootout that Liverpool won 14-13.
On 4 November 2014, Lucas made his 250th appearance for Liverpool, this coming in the Reds' 1-0 defeat against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. With Steven Gerrard preferred in the anchoring midfield role, Lucas had been reduced to a more peripheral role in the team, appearing mostly in cup games. However as Steven Gerrard struggled in his defensive role, calls increased from the fans to reinstate Lucas into the team in place of the captain. Rodgers obliged on 29 November 2014 in Liverpool's home tie against Stoke. Lucas was widely praised as one of the Reds' stand out performers as Liverpool won 1-0, largely producing a more assured defensive display than the team had been capable of for most of the season to date. Lucas made way for Gerrard midway through the second half as the Reds went in search of their winning goal.
Lucas kept his place in the team over the winter period as Liverpool's results, and particularly their defensive displays improved markedly. On 7 February 2015, Lucas suffered a muscular injury early on in the derby game away to Everton; he was then forecast to be sidelined for a month with the injury.
The Brazilian began the 2015-16 season out of favour, not even being included in the 18 man squad for the opening two games. This led to constant speculation over his future at the club, with strong reports linking him with a move to Besiktas. However, on 24 August 2015, Lucas started in a 0-0 draw away to Arsenal, with the manager describing him as "the best defensive midfielder at the club", and stating that he would not be leaving. Lucas later went on to say that he was, in fact, close to leaving the club.
He went on to start the next three Premier League games, with the third being his 200th Premier League appearance, a 1-1 draw with Norwich. On 8 November 2015, Lucas started as Liverpool captain for just the second time, and the first in the Premier League, in a disappointing 2-1 loss at home to Crystal Palace.
On 26 January 2016, Lucas made his 300th appearance for the club, starting and playing 120 minutes in a League Cup semi-final defeat to Stoke. As the aggregate score was 1-1, the game went to a penalty shootout, in which Lucas scored his spotkick. A month later, Lucas started at centre-back in the final, and put in an inspiring performance, being named man of the match for his side. However, the Brazilian missed his spot kick in the shootout, and the Reds were beaten by Manchester City.
On 10 September 2016, Lucas made his first appearance of his tenth season for the club, starting at centre-back in a 4-1 win over Leicester, due to injuries to Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan. In the 38th minute, Lucas miscontrolled a pass from Simon Mignolet, and in a panic blindly hit the ball across the penalty area, allowing Jamie Vardy to get a goal back for the champions.
On 18 January 2017, Lucas scored his first competitive goal in over six years, heading the winning goal in an FA Cup replay against Plymouth Argyle. Towards the end of 2017, Lucas picked up three very important assists, two of them for winning goals for Roberto Firmino and Emre Can.
On 18 July 2017, it was confirmed that after ten seasons at the club, Lucas had signed for Italian side Lazio for a fee of around £5,000,000. Despite only winning a single trophy in his stay, Lucas remained highly regarded by Liverpool supporters, and many called for the club to award him a testimonial match for his service.
Lucas finished his Liverpool career with 346 appearances, scoring 7 goals, and winning the League Cup in 2012.
During his prime years at Liverpool, Lucas frequently topped Premier League rankings for both the number of tackles attempted, and number of successful tackles made by a player. Due to his tackling prolificacy, opposition midfields often found it difficult to impose themselves on Liverpool in the centre of the pitch. Lucas also often looks to 'double-up' on opponents, typically on the wing, to aid others such as the full backs halt an opponent. Lucas still retained a creative streak to his game however, and it was not uncommon to see Lucas execute penetrating through-balls to initiate an attack. He was however sometimes criticised for being too easily pulled out of position, and for conceding too many free kicks.
- League Cup: 1 (2012)
- Liverpool F.C. Young Player of the Year: 2010
- Standard Chartered Player of the Season: 2010-11
- Standard Chartered Player of the Month: 2 (November 2011, February 2016)
- No. 36 on 100 Players Who Shook The Kop (2013)
- Bill Shankly Award: 1 (2014)
- Liverpool Special Recognition Award: 1 (2017)
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