Monday 22 May 2017

Lucas finally showing Kop faithful what Rafa always preached

Ian Herbert

RAFAEL BENITEZ was fond of telling the story of how he had to drag the then Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry to a fax machine to ensure the club tied up the services of Lucas Leiva before Manchester United got in first.

It was when Benitez divulged exactly the same anecdote about Italian defender Andrea Dossena that the scenario seemed to be the product of the rancour the Spaniard often seemed to feel for Parry, but the former Liverpool manager was always determined to show he called it right on Lucas.

Benitez's actions seemed to be bordering on the bloody-minded as the Brazilian's name kept appearing on last season's team-sheets. Lucas appeared more times than Javier Mascherano in Benitez's final campaign and only once fewer than Steven Gerrard. The Anfield Road was not always delighted.

It's not easy being considered the manager's pet project when that manager has gone and the arrival of Christian Poulsen and -- after Mascherano had been sold -- Raul Meireles contributed to the feeling that Lucas would be yesterday's man in the Roy Hodgson era.

Yet he was many observers' man of the match in Sunday's 2-0 win against Chelsea.

Fragile

Lucas reflected yesterday on how fragile his grip on a Liverpool career has seemed in the light of Hodgson's arrival.

"Everyone knows Rafa had a lot of confidence in me, so last season was different," he said. "The (new) manager brought in a midfielder

(Poulsen) while Mascherano was here. We had a lot of midfielders.

"But I don't think about things too much. If the manager doesn't play me, it is his decision. All I can do is work really hard."

But Poulsen has not yet proved the asset Hodgson probably thought he was getting for £4.5m and Meireles has curiously found most success on the right flank in a position previously alien to him.

Lucas's performances, meanwhile, have hinted that his match-winning display against Manchester United in October last year -- he and Mascherano were too powerful for Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick -- was not a flash in the pan.

"It is also good to show there is more to Brazilians than tricks," he said. "You need to show you can do the dirty job for the team. I play defensive and get forward when I can."

Benitez's faith in Lucas makes it easy to forget he is still only 23 but an experienced player. "I'm getting older and getting better," he said.

Those that had written him off, may now be looking forward to seeing just how good he can become. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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