The last month has been an amazing rollercoaster for Lucas Leiva; a new baby boy, a long-term contract and another international cap for Brazil.
But what is next for the 24-year old?
He is an established first team regular at the top of his game, so where can he go from here?
For me this new long term deal indicates Kenny’s desire to shape his midfield around Lucas.
By this, I mean Kenny will allow one of the midfielders to occupy a ‘free role’ whether it be Meireles, Gerrard or a new signing.
Lucas allows his midfield partners this luxury – he has unbelievable maturity for his age, and has an incredible discipline to stick to his position and not get caught on the attack. Considering he was an attacking midfielder in his native Brazil, it makes it all the more impressive.
In one of the matchday fanzines I saw a picture mocking Lucas’ inability to cross the halfway line. I was slightly annoyed by this but having said that I can understand the frustration it gives some fans.
When we play the lesser quality teams it is frustrating that we have a holding midfielder for ninety minutes if we can’t find the cutting edge.
I would highlight the Wigan game at Anfield this season in particularly where at 1-1 Lucas was reluctant to push on, but I think that may be down to the manager’s orders rather than lack of attacking flair.
Having said that, the role that Lucas plays is imperative in the big games against the other top sides in the league, the teams that have the strong attacking midfielders, and I think should we qualify for the Champions League in the next two seasons we will see this even more.
The games I would highlight in particular are the home and away games versus Chelsea this season.
At Anfield Lucas dealt with Mikel, Ramires and Malouda almost single-handedly which gave Gerrard that free role.
In the reverse fixture it was Lampard, Essien and Mikel who are arguably a stronger trio and also taking into account it was away from home it was quite outstanding that Lucas came away with 89% pass completion – a figure which has been equalled in the majority of his outings this season.
What impressed me most about the Brazilian’s performance at Stamford Bridge was his ability to dictate the tempo with his passing.
He is often criticised for passing sideways on a regular basis but don’t start to believe this to be an inability to pass the ball creatively. This I can guarantee is an instruction from his managers, Rafa, Hodgson and Kenny will all want the ex-Gremio man to be the dictator of the play and to retain possession as it allows his midfield partners to push on gradually and force the opposition defence deeper.
His confidence is outlined in his willingness to have the ball in his own half – he always shows for a pass and is usually the creator of most moves.
The Lucas that Rafa signed back in 2007 for £6m was timid and often got caught in possession. He lacked the confidence he portrays now, turned out some poor performances and looked like he was heading straight out of Liverpool.
When looking at the larger picture, though, he was treated very unfairly by Liverpool ‘fans’. He changed position, climate, tempo of football and language all at the age of 20.
I say ‘fans’ because there is a difference between armchair Liverpool supporters and genuine Kopites.
Any Kopites that criticised Lucas were hypocrites because they were the ones who said ‘In Rafa we trust’ and it was Benitez who signed the midfielder and said, ‘people just don’t know how good Lucas is’.
I personally felt that given chance under Rafa he was always going to improve but it has surprised me that he has further progressed under Hodgson and Dalglish. That is just testament to the young man’s character as it seemed he may be forced out by Christian Purslow and Hodgson when the Englishman was given the job.
In essence I think tying Lucas down to a long-term deal shows the ambition of the club and it is the start of what is going to be in my opinion a fantastic 12 months for Liverpool.
A wise move on Damien Comolli and Kenny’s part and with a few additions to the squad in the summer I firmly believe this team can finish in the top four once again and potentially challenge for the Premier League.
As for Lucas himself, if he keeps improving at his current rate, his new born may be watching his Dad as Liverpool and Brazil captain.