I have been an advocate for Lucas Leiva ever since he signed for Liverpool and last April after his goal against Benfica I got very emotional in a ‘crying rant’ which was targeted to those supporters who had been bashing and blaming the young Brazilian for anything bad that happens.
But why the negativity towards Lucas? Before coming over to Liverpool he had won the Golden Ball award, this is prestigious award in the Brazilian league and former winners have included Zico, Falcão, Careca, Alex, Romario, Kaká and Tévez. Maybe Liverpool fans were expecting Lucas to be like most award winning Alumni and score a ton of goals? Lucas who was also Brazil’s U20 captain wasn’t like them, he was a different player, however even at that young age Rafa saw a lot of potential in him.
Lucas did have a hard time settling in, he looked shaky and nervous and after he was sent off in the FA cup clash against Everton many fans called for Rafa to sell him, some went even as far as to boo him. He did contribute in the 4-1 mauling of Man Utd at Old Trafford however the media and many Liverpool fans didn’t see his contribution. Jamie Redknapp even gave credit to Xabi Alonso who wasn’t even playing. Rafa was stuborn and believed in Lucas who in return spent his Summer holiday in the gym to buff up. In the 2009/10 season the sale of Xabi Alonso and the many lingering injuries suffered by Alberto Aquilani gave Lucas the opportunity to establish himself as a regular starter. Many fans were not happy however Lucas kept improving and even after contributing to another demolition of Man Utd at Anfield many fans still didn’t believe. I even saw some stooping very low and calling him “Rafa’s love child”.
2010/11 has started very well for the Brazilian, he has now won Man of the Match twice in a matter of a month (for the performance against Chelsea & Aston Villa) and he even scored a thundering 25 yarder against Steau Bucharest. He will turn 24 next month and really has a nice career lined up for him. He is establishing himself as a regular starter for Brazil and now he is now starting to win over the Liverpool fans. While many praise Rafa and others praise Roy I praise Lucas, after all he is one who worked hard to achieve this.
Lucas isn’t the only young player to come under criticism from Liverpool fans and the media, David N’Gog is another victim who has flourished this season, now I am starting to hear some grumbling over 18 year Jonjo Shelvey.
The lesson is, have faith in our young players and give them a chance to develop before we start calling for heads to roll.
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