Lucas Leiva Talks to RAWK (and others....) - Melwood - 12th October 2012

Posted by Sarah Deane on October 12, 2012, 06:30:34 PM

The latest meet-greet for the forums, at Melwood this afternoon, gave us a chance to talk to Lucas Leiva. He had some interesting things to say about his early days, his attitude, and his thoughts on 'the kids'. Nice guy, generous with his time, and someone with a genuine love for the club.

Many of you will have already seen the whole Podcast on TAW (RAWK doesn't have the facility, nor the convenience, to just post up a video ;) ), so here's a pseudo-professional attempt at an editorial...

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The last ten months have been, in Lucas Leiva's own words, "the worst period of my career", so he could be forgiven for appearing in front of the forums today a little downcast, or fed up. Not so. When the Brazilian arrived in Melwood's press room earlier this afternoon (after another session in the treatment room, and all going to plan), he was buoyant, upbeat, and more concerned with the fact he was late to greet us, than his own troubles. Having to endure another lengthy lay-off, so soon after the previous one, would be enough to test any player, but this is exactly what his manager, his fellow players, and his many admirers mean, when they say that, mentally, Lucas Leiva is one of the toughest people in football.

Joining Liverpool from Brazilian side, Gremio, in July 2007, Lucas was always going to have to fight for a first team place in a midfield that included Gerrard, Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso. "It was a privilege to train with these players every day, to watch them, so in the period when I was not getting too many games, just to watch them...I learned a lot...and I still have Stevie around. If you are open to learning, you will become a better player."

Lucas had rightly been feted in his own country as a wunderkind, but playing in the Premier League - and at Anfield - was a baptism of fire. "It was hard for me when I came [here], I was a young boy, had no idea about the Premier League, the culture or the city [of Liverpool], it was a big change for me." Back home, Lucas had won medals and trophies and had "never had a bad period...everybody was speaking about me". A satisfying opening season promised much for his Liverpool future, but the first half of the next, didn't live up to expectations. After a disappointing performance against Fulham in the 0-0 draw at Anfield in 2008, when he admitted that "maybe my life here was finished", Lucas says he was determined to prove the doubters wrong. "Something told me to keep going...and people started to realise the work I was putting [in] on the games, and maybe it wasn't working the way I wanted, and the way you wanted, as well, but then some of you realised that I was trying everything I could...and you started to give me more credit, and that was when I began to think that everything was changing."

And it was. The Lucas Leiva of today, is a wiser, better, more experienced player than the one who arrived here five years ago, and he feels he's been vindicated in his decision to stay. Being voted Player of the Year by the fans in 2010-11, as well as receiving numerous other fan awards, made him feel proud. "If you have supporters backing you, it gives you confidence. That [early] period made me stronger, made me realise what I wanted, and that's why every day of my life I try and give my best to this club. I know how big this club is and how much the supporters expect from me. I don't think things could be worse [than before], and I can handle anything that will happen. We have a saying in Brazil - we are Brazilians, we never give up". A motto that would come in even handier when the usually injury-free Lucas suffered serious ligament damage in a December 2011 League Cup tie with Chelsea, which ruled him out for the rest of the season. Sitting in the stands was uncharted territory.

Back to full fitness by the summer, and an appearance in the summer friendly against Toronto, was a welcome sight for many, and it looked as though the blow of a failed transfer window, would be tempered slightly by Lucas's return to form. To lose him early on in the scrap against Man City just a few weeks later, to a thigh injury, could have been the final straw for a lesser player, because "when you have an injury," he says, "You don't go outside, you don't see the training sessions, it makes you feel out of the team, out of football."

Brendan Rodgers said recently that he wanted to keep Lucas's superior tactical mind busy, by sending him on scouting missions around the country. But even if that doesn't happen, the Brazilian has plenty to say about the young team currently taking to the pitch. "I said to Suso, to Pacheco, that the club has never been so open for young players. It's an opportunity for them to show [what they can do], because they know it is so difficult to get to play for this club...and the supporters like the young players...and this is the time now, and Brendan likes to give them a chance...and these players will just get better. It's a very positive time."

So does he see a bit of himself in any of the younger players in the squad? "Everyone is different," he insists, although he admits he's been sympathising with Jonjo Shelvey, since his sending off against Man Utd. "He was playing very well until that tackle, and I just remember getting sent off against Everton, and it cost us the FA Cup [tie]. But when you get older, you get more experience. Everyone will have their own history, some will have bad moments, and I just hope they can cope well with the pressure and improve as players. As a team, we have to protect [them], and give them the confidence to keep improving."

Having been through the wringer himself, Lucas feels he's in the perfect place to advise the kids how to deal with the inevitable pressure of being a Liverpool player. "I try to just be around [for them] and tell them what I went through when I came. At some point, they're going to play badly, and that's normal, but the supporters, instead of putting them down, have to try and give them confidence. Confidence is maybe 50-60% of the game, and if you have confidence, you try more, you take more risks, and I think that's important."

Someone who doesn't need confidence, is Luis Suarez, although Lucas does believe the striker gets a raw deal. Regarding penalty incidents, Lucas reckons that "what foreign players do, is more noticed. Why...I don't know. What Luis does is noticed more. He's a great guy, a family man, he's a different person on and off the pitch and that's why he's such a big player, he wants to win everything. Even on the training pitch, he doesn't like to lose, that's his character. I'm very close to Luis and I just feel sorry for him sometimes, because he worries about what the Liverpool [fans] think. But everybody would love to have him on their team."

Going forward with this season, and working hard on getting back to full fitness once more, Lucas is characteristically full of optimism. "The way Brendan likes to work, we can only get better as a team. The last three, four years have been very difficult, but that will be gone and we'll start to achieve. Everyone here is working to [win the League]...and when you see players like Daniel Agger, Suarez, committing themselves to this club, it just shows how much they believe. I don't think anybody would want to stay in a club that doesn't think it can win anything. I wouldn't change anything about my career here."

And of his own role to play? He smiles, wryly. "I don't think [that] will change much, I'll be a holding midfielder, just with more experience."

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