THE term legend is used liberally these days, seemingly even more so where football players are concerned.
Gareth Roberts of these pages covered the topic recently, mentioning Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres. Both very good football players for Liverpool but by no means legends at the club.
But who qualifies as a Liverpool legend? The obvious names that spring to mind are Kenny Dalglish and in more recent times Steven Gerrard to name a few. Players who spent a large part of their career at Anfield, and it usually helps if they picked up a few trophies along the way. Players that left behind a legacy.
Another important attribute when it comes to Liverpool Football Club is embracing the city. Scousers are proud of their club and their city and they demand the same of those who are lucky enough to be a part of it. And there aren’t many players in recent times who have done that quite like Lucas Leiva.
People will immediately scoff at the idea of Lucas being a Liverpool legend. During his 10 years at the club he was rarely a regular starter, he never truly wowed supporters and only had one winners’ medal to his name. On that basis he isn’t a legend.
What he definitely did do is take the city into his heart and adopt the culture. He went from a straggly wig to a slick lid complete with an infectious smile and a Scouse twang.
What he lacked at times on the pitch he made up for off it. Helping new signings settle into the club and the city as though it were his own, making them feel as at home as he himself felt.
Another taster of our one-hour exclusive interview with @LucasLeiva87.
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— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) February 23, 2017
For all the criticism he received from certain sections of supporters during his Liverpool career he always gave his all and showed respect, towards the supporters and the badge. He knew what it meant to pull on the Liverpool shirt in a generation of footballers who seldom seem to understand the true meaning of loyalty.
Most who are linked with as many moves away as Lucas has been from Liverpool would have already made the leap. But that was a decision he took very personally and one he wanted to ultimately make when he felt the time was right.
Few players can attest to having had as many peaks and troughs as Lucas has had as a Liverpool player. Some didn’t really take to him when he was first brought in by Rafa Benitez. Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano could do little wrong in their eyes and the Brazilian would often take the brunt of the criticism should he play even the smallest of parts in any on-field disappointment.
Once Alonso and Mascherano both left the club, Lucas’s confidence grew and with that the performances improved. He had gone from a box-to-box midfielder with an eye for goal to a holding midfielder winning over the Liverpool faithful with tough-tackling yet composed displays.
Injuries threatened to hamper the good progress he had made but he was always reliable when called upon by Brendan Rodgers and later Jürgen Klopp, even if his role had diminished.
In the season just gone he showed versatility and professionalism to thrive as one of Klopp’s backup centre-halves and stood out as one of the side’s most improved performers. Despite his slight frame he excelled in aerial duels and never shirked from physical battles.
Off the pitch he took the younger lads under his wing and acted as a mentor to help them improve their game and realise their potential. Having left home as a 20-year-old, he had invaluable experience of overcoming the challenge of settling in to a new country and he wanted to share that wisdom.
That is the biggest loss to the club. While The Reds can go into the transfer market to improve their depth and build a squad ready to fight on four fronts in 2017-18, they can’t replace the experience and mentality they have lost in the dressing room after Lucas’s departure. You can’t pay world record fees to bring that in. It’s priceless.
Upon confirmation of his departure, his now former team-mates spoke of the loss to the dressing room and commended the person as well as the player.
In his open letter to Liverpool fans Lucas spoke about how he had been described as a Scouser by some supporters and said: “I might not have won as many trophies as I would have liked during my time here but to have people talk about me in that way means as much as any medal.”
Absolute fucking Scouser pic.twitter.com/uNMImU22zt
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) May 21, 2017
Those are the words of somebody who embraced what Liverpool, the club and the city as a whole, is about.
He may not be a legend in the same sense as Dalglish and Gerrard. He won’t be mentioned as one of the great Liverpool players like Torres and Suarez. But he wears a badge which carries as much honour.
Lucas Leiva. Scouser.
All the best at Lazio, la.
Neil and Andy chat about Lucas'departure, his time at the club and about the fact it will be a shame to no longer to have him around. pic.twitter.com/9owh8crrXI
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) July 18, 2017
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Great lad, really understood the Liverpool way, always willing to do whatever the manager asked, wish him nothing but the best.
I also wish he’d never come to our club. He’s like Souness the manager. Anyone can spot how incompetent and damaging Hodgson was – you weed them out quickly. It’s the Sounesses that really damage a club. Mediocre. Inconsistent. But hey, we like them so let’s overlook their woeful goal scoring ability. Their weakness in defence. Their lack of pace.
I’ve seen way too many of them at Liverpool in the past few years. Johnson. Kuyt. Skrtel. We need to learn to get rid and get rid quick. Every player we let linger around is an opportunity missed elsewhere (his transfer fee, low as it is, would have covered Alli’s arrival).
Lovely guy but should have been gone eight years ago.
I like how you can spot a miserable aul arse from a mile off.
Brilliant piece, Josh! Thank you!
Just wish he got that winner in the derby back in 2007/08 – would have been forever known as the ‘Lucas derby’ rather than the ‘Kuyt derby’.
We’ve had a difficult few years since 2005 …. it’s the likes of Lucas that helps me love our club beyond all others . Today in football it’s all about winning and nothing else matters , well I loved watching him win or lose he gave everything , he transcended what we think we need and gave us the passion which is what we really need , it’s what makes us different
The complete professional, nothing but respect. Goodbye Lucas and good luck.
He won’t be remembered as the greatest we ever had and my God he took his time to win me over, I have to admit. But there aren’t many non-local players in the past decade that really understand what Liverpool (the club, the city, the Scouse culture) is about that wel as Lucas Leiva did. The simple fact that he has a Kop chant (one that suits him: not the most briljant, but effective, full of passion, a bit of humour and sung with 100% comitment) and some greater players in the recent past haven’t, proves what he meant for the people of this city and this club. I’ll miss him big time next season, for not seeing him on the picth. But even more for who he was: a great gentleman, with a lovely smile and a heart for this city and club, as big as Liverpool itself. I liked him, in fact I fucking loved him!
Good luck in Italy, lad! YNWA
From an opposition fan perspective (Chelsea for my sins) I always liked and respected Lucas; something dead honest and committed about the guy over the years. Lots of nice commentary around the football media about his charity work, multi-lingual ability to make new players feel at home, not to mention his desire to improve his game. Like Dick Kuyt before him, just one of those players you end up liking if you like football beyond your own team. Good luck to him.