Here is the exclusive English version of Lucas Leiva’s recent interview with LFC Brasil. Follow LFC Brasil on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LFCBrasil You can see the Portuguese version at http://t.co/pUXQZsx
Going straight to the questions, how was it for you when you knew Liverpool were interested in signing you? What were your expectations?
A: I found out about Liverpool’s interest in me in March 2007 when I was playing in the Libertadores Cup [like a Champions League of South America]. Rafael Benitez contacted my business manager and my father saying that he was interested in signing me. I was happy because my expectation was to go to a big club in Europe.
2) Much is said about how difficult it is for Brazilians to adapt to life in England, and it is well known that you had a difficult start both on and off the pitch. Did it help having Fabio Aurelio around?
A: It is always very difficult to switch countries, especially at such a young age (20 years). England is a country completely different from Brazil, from the language to the climate and the style of football. I had a very difficult start here in Liverpool, but I set my mind to the task of changing my style of play in order to succeed. Fabio helped me on my arrival, particularly within the club, but you end up with many things to learn by yourself. I had the awareness to change my style of football to improve and it paid off.
3) You were on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from fans, especially in your first season. How did this affect you?
A: As I said earlier, I had a very tough start in the club where I ended up getting a lot of criticism. I felt that there was a lot of mistrust, but I tried to stay focused so that I could become an important player for Liverpool. Gradually, through hard work and dedication, I’m getting there.
4) Throughout your difficult early career at Liverpool, Rafa Benitez always believed in you and your football. How was your relationship with him?
A: Rafa Benitez was very important for me because he always recognised my work. He saw that I had always been devoted to improving as a player, so he was confident even when I received a lot of criticism. I do not know if any other coach would have the patience he had with me. I will always be grateful.
5) The same fans who were so fierce in their criticism of you now worship you, even rating you as the most important player in the Liverpool team. How did it feel to be voted Player of the Season by our fans?
A: The award I received last year just shows how much I have improved as a player and the fans recognised that. Fans are fuelled with passion. When you win you are a hero, when you lose they call for your head. I tried to understand this and tried to improve, to reach a level high enough to receive their acceptance. Thank God it happened. It has been a huge accomplishment for me.
6) We are all fans of your personality and how you have progressed in your career so far at Liverpool. In the game against Glasgow Rangers you captained the team from the beginning of the match. Do you dream of being the Liverpool captain one day?
A: I had been appointed captain in a Europe League game when Hodgson was in charge but the game against Rangers was remarkable for me, and Kenny Dalglish has always given me great confidence since the beginning of his work here. Being captain of Liverpool is a great responsibility. I hope to have other opportunities, it gives me huge pride.
7) Liverpool had a hard time last season on and off the field until the new owners took over. How did it impact the team?
A: The new owners are doing everything to give us the resources to win titles. The club have signed many new players. It is normal for a new team to take time to gel, but I see our team much stronger than last year, despite acknowledging that the results have not been as good as we would like.
8) Do you think your role on the team has evolved with the arrival of Kenny Dalglish? How is having King Kenny as coach?
A: Kenny Dalglish is considered the greatest player in the history of Liverpool. He won all possible titles as a player and as coach has been very successful. Kenny always gives me confidence. I’ve grown a lot since his arrival. He was a player so he understands what it means to be a part of a team. This helps in his relationship with the group.
9) Lucas, you were formed at Grêmio’s Academy, and the classic Gre-Nal (Grêmio vs Internacional) is considered as the greatest rivalry in Brazil, do you feel the same pressure in the Merseyside Derby?
A: At first I did not feel the same pressure as I did not understand the history of The Derby when I first arrived, but after a few years I started to understand what The Derby means for Liverpool fans. I now feel the same way before The Derby as I did before the Gre-Nals.
10) One last funny question that many wanted to know, will you ever let your hair grow again? With that mullet? (laughs)
A: My days with long hair are gone. I enjoyed that period a lot. I liked my long hair, but it is gone. My life is in a different place now. Honestly, I do not see myself ever having long hair again.
My Twitter: www.twitter.com/joescouse_lfc