So much is said about loyalty in modern day football at the moment that it seems only right Lucas Leiva gets the recognition he deserves.
A dreaded, supposedly disruptive and gruelling trip down to Plymouth quickly produced one of the moments of the season when Lucas bagged his first goal in seven years. It only needed the jubilation from his teammates and Reds on social media to understand what a beloved part of this team he is. It was glorious. The classic jokes many had waited years to make finally came out in force and suddenly everyone united in again realising just how dearly he would be missed were he to leave.
Reports linking the Brazilian to an Anfield departure have arisen once more this month and at perhaps at a stage in his career when making a decision is as difficult as it could possibly be.
Bidding farewell to a man who has not once altered his dedication nor his commitment to this club would not only mark the end of an era but also an upsetting end to what has been an incredible bond between player and fans. Thankfully, it appears any danger of January staging such an emotional exit has passed by.
Opportunities to move elsewhere were there for him and are likely to have been there for some time now yet neither the player himself nor Liverpool can seem to cut the cord. A man of his experience and the nature in which he approaches the game is far too precious to part ways with.
‘Lucas Leiva’ has been the name undoubtedly plenty of Reds have been able to give with conviction and with pride over the years when asked to pick their favourite player. Neutrals may not appreciate him but Liverpool fans certainly do. He isn’t the headlining match winner but the tough tackling, unrelenting, unconventional Brazilian who has valued his privilege to sport that famous red jersey more than most, and who is loved by the Red half of the city for that very reason.
It doesn’t take being around him on a daily basis to comprehend just what a special member of the squad he is and has been over the years. Restricting praise of him to the fact he is one of the nicest, down to earth and most genuine figures within the sport would be a disservice to his value.
Fans love a homegrown hero and for many, Lucas is exactly that.
His career on Merseyside is now just shy of being a decade long in which time he has moulded into a leader in his own right, greeting the need for adaptation with class and posing as an ambassador for hard work and fearless football even before Jurgen Klopp arrived.
There was a frustrating irony to the anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered to his left knee in a 2009 Carling Cup clash with Chelsea. It was the kind of bullish and fierce challenge that typified his midfield presence which happened to bring his most impressive period in a Liverpool shirt to a widely-grieved halt.
To endure such a torrid time immediately after and maintain the same level of determination and devotion, despite once again finding himself fighting for his place, served as a comforting reminder that he was not finished. Lucas himself has experienced change far more than those currently playing under Klopp and has confronted the adjustment and the fresh focus that change demands with maturity and enthusiasm.
Having taken so long to prove himself to critics following his arrival in England, his ability to exercise his versatility and present himself as an adequate candidate to fill in at centre-back is a sign of not only how keen he is to remain a Red but also how valuable an individual he is.
There is a unique combination of grace and aggression to his game that for so long has seen him master the art of calmly maintaining possession in dangerous areas and also making his mark on the game with a crunching challenge.
He isn’t a starter but he sees the abundance of talent Klopp has at his disposal and accepts his respected position at the club. His disappointment having made an error and his sheer delight having seen his team score says his heart is still with Liverpool, regardless of what is being said about his future.
If the latest batch of youth stars have as much potential as many are suggesting then keeping Lucas would be one of the smartest moves Liverpool could make this year. Technical ability is down to the youngsters themselves but what he can teach them is the good old fashioned graft and resilience required of anyone intent on becoming a Kop favourite. He has seen enough promising academy ‘prospects’ fade away to make him an ideal man to take a piece or two of advice from.
It isn’t quite the time to say goodbye to him yet and it doesn’t seem like it ever will be. He is as professional as footballers get and a truly great servant to his team. Whatever comes of his career, he deserves the best.