New Years Eve 2016 was a huge night for Liverpool Football Club. We welcomed Manchester City to Anfield, led by one of the brightest managers in world football and arguably the best striker in the Premier League, Sergio Aguero, was returning from suspension hoping to tear up a Red defence that had been questioned so often throughout the season.
So from a football perspective, it was already big enough. However, rumours were circling that in a whirlwind season of change, the Manchester City match was to be the end of the road for Liverpool’s longest standing servant, that Lucas Leiva was to depart the club and head to Italy where he would join up with Inter Milan.
In truth, Lucas was linked with a move abroad more often than not during the transfer season, but this did look like it was to be his final hurrah at Anfield and it seemed to ignite a support within the supporters that he had previously not experienced in his nine years on Merseyside.
Kopites on twitter were scrambling to find any flags or banners they could get hold of that paid tribute to the Brazilian in any way they could as there was a sudden realisation that for a modern day foreign footballer to adopt the culture of not only a club, but an entire city, for such a long sting is completely unheard of. Lucas has raised a family in Liverpool and will undoubtedly consider himself a Scouser, and good on him.
Liverpool won the match 1-0 and Lucas made an appearance to a rapturous applause, though as he replaced a red-hot Sadio Mané there is an argument to be made his introduction was drowned out by the ovation for the Senegalese winger who had himself put in a fine performance.
In the days that followed, talk quietened about the move to Italy as Liverpool entered a hectic January schedule of five games in seventeen days. With the games coming thick and fast, Liverpool quickly realised that Lucas had an important role to play in the squad, starting three of those five games and captaining the side on two occasions.
Jurgen Klopp has made no secret of his plans to use the cup competitions as an opportunity to introduce youth players into the first team set up. In the FA Cup replay against Plymouth Argyle, Harry Wilson became the 19th player to make a first team debut under the German. With so many new faces in the team, experience is key in harmonising the squad and providing a balance and who has better experience than a player in his 9th season at a club where he has made 334 appearances?!
In that same 3rd round replay, where Lucas captained the side, he took it upon himself to lead by example and scored his first goal (in a first team match) in seven years, helping the Reds progress to the 4th round with a 1-0 win in the South-West.
As we all know, he also scored in training last week.
For all the Liverpool fans at Home Park it was a real collectors item as Lucas headed in from Coutinho’s corner (some 2317 days after his last), but his contribution on and off the ball in what was a real scrappy cup tie only highlighted the growing importance of Liverpool’s first ever Brazilian goal-scorer. His chirpy interviews, his hilarious social media presence and his growing influence in this exciting Liverpool squad proves how he is one of Jurgen Klopp’s senior commanders and a player we cannot afford to lose.
Of course, he will never please anyone, so if after all of the above you still think he needs to head towards the exit: