My Favourite player #21 - Lucas Leiva

Posted by BreakfastPercy on December 18, 2012, 03:14:38 AM

Skills for the Peladão; guts for the Britannia. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and cheekbones you could moor a boat to. What. A. Man. Lucas Pezzini Leiva will earn far and above his transfer price in stud fees when Martin Samuel finally creates his Aryan footballing dynasty. And though that may yet be an uncomfortably beautiful thing, we should remember that the existence of Lucas wasn't always so celebrated, so pretty, so coveted by Samuel's greasy sausage-fingers. There was a time when Lucas Leiva had to prove himself...

* * * * *
It's the night of Tuesday 10th March 2009, and Champions League football burns Anfield like a coal-fire. Weary, muddied, the square frame of Xabi Alonso indicates towards the bench. A calf injury will see him take no further part. Xabi has been the heartbeat of a Liverpool side so far pummeling the Galacticos of Madrid, and thirty minutes remain for the fool who fills his boots, the man who can but mess this up. Manager Rafael Benitez gestures to the substitutes' bench, his geometric hand signals carefully keeping the symphony in time: 'You're up kid'.

Lucas Leiva strips his tracksuit to reveal pristine red kit, not yet his armour. Final instructions swirl through his ears and cling stickily to a treacle brain: he just has to grasp the metronome and keep it ticking. The air crackles with nerves; with efficiency. The stadium's atmosphere seeps into his consciousness. Around him, muffled screams and whistles and the gallop of boots stir what is now a cauldron of anticipation. He waits for Xabi to leave.

Time for last checks: fidget; squirm; wait for the nod. He hoists his socks, slicks his hair, anything to drown out the din. The tannoy booms. Every breath, every hair, every whisper in the crowd is conspicuous as it vibrates with the energies of fate. A roar for his fallen comrade, but what of him? What of the man they booed only weeks earlier? Is this sick irony? The mob yells and hollers. Fans delirious with victory warp and twist a hellish red Guernica. Time cocks its hammer.

And in a split second he's pulled over the white line and into the match! His every thought drowns in process, his every fear is lost in a thirty minute exhale. So much build-up, so much worry ebbs away as the world lurches into order on the pitch. In fear's place: victory; dull euphoria; hope; redemption.

Only a few days later he's ready to go again, this time a full ninety minutes in the bowels of hell itself. Lucas pours gasoline in the red machine, and a monstrous performance sees us storm Old Trafford and hoist the Liverbird to full mast. His personal resurrection another set of jump-leads to our best title challenge since the Premier League began. This is how it should be. Now we're flying. Player, team, and everyone with red in their blood hurtling towards what was- and will again be- ours. Four nil, Four one, Fuck you.

* * * * *
And so the career of one man was reformed in one hundred and twenty minutes of football. For all Rafa was willing to stake his reputation on Lucas' ability, it's hard to imagine a liveable existence at the club had things gone badly. Years of work on the training ground, countless nights of soul searching, it was all acutely re-calibrated in the course of a week. After months of strife, two matches brought watershed acceptance of greater heritage than any goal or tackle or three points.

But what of the adversity before triumph? Why exactly was that climb so steep? Why did it mean so much?

Tuesday, 4th November 2008
Acting Detective Chief Inspector Peter Parry:
"These items have significant personal importance to Mr Leiva and they were associated with some very cherished memories."

Lucas (21) has his Olympic Bronze medal, as well as jewellery and a distinctive collection of sporting memorabilia, stolen from his home whilst on the bench at Anfield versus Atletico Madrid (Champions League).

Saturday, 22nd November 2008
Lucas Leiva:
"Fulham was the worst moment because it was the first time anything like that had happened to me."

Lucas starts ahead of Xabi Alonso in Liverpool's 0-0 home draw against Roy Hodgson's Fulham, with Alonso rested following a midweek International. The Kop begin chanting Alonso's name with only half an hour gone, whilst a small minority boo the Brazilian.

Shortly after Rafa Benitez attends a charity dinner with Assistant Manager Sammy Lee. Lucas is singled out for criticism in a question and answer session with fans and TV pundits.

Wednesday, 28th January 2009
Wigan 'Manager' Steve Bruce:
"I'm sure Mr. Ferguson will be delighted with the result"

Lucas brings down Jason Koumas in the 83rd minute away at Wigan Athletic, handing them a point as Mido scores the penalty. Chelsea climb above Liverpool in the table, and a frustrated Rafa Benitez says 'we have lost two points...we didn't kill the game'.

Wednesday, 4th February 2009
Everton Manager David Moyes:
"We haven't won the cup tonight, although it feels a bit like it in there. There was a lot said about how Liverpool are much better than us."

With fifteen minutes left of an FA Cup replay at Goodison, Lucas gets a second yellow card for a trip on Joleon Lescott. Liverpool have to play extra-time with ten men, and look like surviving to penalties until a late Dan Gosling goal sends Everton through. 'The turning point of the game was the second yellow card for Lucas, I was not happy, but I do not want to say anything about the referee' says a gutted Rafael Benitez.
* * * * *
That's a tough few months at the best of times, never mind when the semi-literate masses are shooting-up on 'I told you so' and they smell a big fat fix at your expense. We needed it didn't we? Just had to have that sweet Endorphin rush of being the first to know our player was shite, and then just had to make sure he wasn't the last to find out. We were spoiled brats.

Why canonize or condemn? A kid trying to crack the 'Best Midfield In The World' should have been allowed his pupillage. The problem was that by 2008 the fingers-in-ears judgementalism was reaching apocalyptic levels. We were riding back to glory but had forgotten the dignity. Idiocy was looming, bloodthirsty; the last few patient fans retreated to the roof of the shopping mall, spelled out 'HELP', and waited desperately for reinforcements to arrive.

Lucas Leiva was not so much a SWAT team extraction, as a lone Priest armed with a cricket bat, and he's been righteously stemming the horde of yob zombies ever since. Had it not been for this little angel from Gremio, Jordan Henderson's organs would already be in digestion, and plenty of others will come to owe Lucas their time.

His legacy is one that will resonate for years, and it makes him more than just another good player. He is, like Joe Cole's last functioning Bronchiole, the source of barely enough hope to stick at the whole thing. Lucas is proof not all is rotten: a little thumbnail of unspoiled greatness. His quietly delivered 'I told you so' is a reminder of a better way, and a lesson in how players and fans should treat each other.

We're now a few years on from the embarrassment of the Fulham game, and the boy is man; the man is loved. When he finally opened up about 'those' boos, he had only the audacity to empathize with his jurors. He's simply a top guy. Leave Lucas at the bar with your missus, and you've nothing to worry about but coming back to a full glass. Hell! You can have her Lucas, you deserve it mate. I'll bring you breakfast in bed in the morning you little dreamboat. How do you like your eggs? 'Fertilized'? Don't push it.

Oh yeah he can play too. Did I mention that? That gawky, straddling gait of his, the beaming smile, they often misdirect from fearsome, rabid concentration. Swarming around the pitch, gobbling up attackers and shitting out humble pie, Lucas Leiva is both artisan and demolition man. He's a little iron fist in a velvet glove, and he possesses a few attributes his predecessors didn't.

But I shan't dissect Lucas' history or talents further, because firstly eight million bloggers have done it this month already, and secondly I stand by the fact his best is yet to come. We'd be talking prawn crackers when there's a truck-load of Chow Mein above the massage parlor round the corner. Call it 'blind faith', call it 'gut feeling', I know there's something that little bit special about this boy's future, not just his past.

What I will do is remind you that we are not indebted to Lucas, despite his travails. The man just wouldn't have it. Still, we can be grateful, and humble, and glad. And we can thank Lucas for giving us enough patience and goodness to get by. Boy do I dread to imagine this place without him!

So, as now is the custom, let us raise a cauldron of obscure South American tea in honour of Lucas Pezzini Leiva. Our favourite! Welcome back, and Feliz Natal (Merry Christmas)!

Oh and 'cause it's Christmas and all, enjoy this little gift of a vintage Lucas compilation from the match so pretentiously described above!

 Merry Christmas RAWK

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