Lucas Leiva‘s Liverpool future appears to be up in the air this summer, and Henry Jackson assesses whether or not the Reds should keep hold of the Brazilian.
This might make you feel horribly old, but when Steven Gerrard departs for the MLS at the end of this season, Lucas will become Liverpool’s longest-serving player.
It is now just over eight years since the then-20-year-old made a £5 million move to Anfield from Brazilian side Gremio, and the time seems to have flown.
There have been many ups and downs along the way, whether it be his dark early days at the club, cruel injury misfortunes or magnificent run of form at the start of the decade.
4.6 – Only Lucas Leiva (5.4) has won more tackles per 90 mins than Filipe Luis (4.6) in the PL this season (minimum 800 mins). Combative.
— OptaChelsea (@OptaChels) May 18, 2015
One thing that cannot be questioned is that, from start to finish, the Brazilian has been a terrific servant who has always clearly loved playing for Liverpool.
There are question marks over his future on Merseyside though, with some claiming he may move on to pastures new ahead of next season.
Here are the arguments for both keeping and selling the Reds’ midfield enforcer.
The first thing that springs to mind when you compare the 28-year-old to many of his other Liverpool teammates is experience; something that can be priceless in any squad.
Brendan Rodgers has a very young set of players at his disposal, with some barely out of their teens and the majority not yet over 25. With Gerrard leaving that lack of proven quality is only going to evaporate further.
Lucas has shown himself to be a good leader in the past, and would be a very handy person to help Jordan Henderson ease into the role of replacing Gerrard as skipper.
He may even be a candidate for the vice-captaincy, although that looks likely to go to Martin Skrtel.
The likeable Brazilian is also still the only genuine defensive midfielder at the club, and he has shown how influential he can be many times in the past.
This season can be used as a prime example.
His reintegration to Liverpool’s side prior to the turn of the year coincided with a hugely impressive run of results, with Lucas the understated figure breaking up opposition attacks, showing good positional sense and using the ball intelligently.
Gerrard has been poor in that role this season, Joe Allen still very much flatters to deceive and Henderson is at his most effective in a box-to-box role.
Even Emre Can, who many are pencilling in to become a world-class midfielder in the next few years, is still very raw.
If the Reds sold Lucas and didn’t replace him it would be potentially fatal, and his influence would be very noticeable once he had gone.
The key question is, can Liverpool do better than Lucas now? For all of the positive attributes he brings to the side, as stated above, the answer is yes.
The numerous injury problems he has suffered with down the years have understandably taken their toll, and despite his age suggesting he should be at his peak, he is not.
The Brazilian was never blessed with searing pace at the best of times, but any speed he once had has almost completely gone now. Because of that, he commits endless mistimed tackles to avoid being outrun, which can be detrimental to Liverpool.
The Reds need someone who can really get around the pitch, bossing the midfield in a manner in which Nemanja Matic has done to perfection at Chelsea this season.
Lucas just isn’t capable of that now, sadly.
His passing is also not the best from his deep-lying role, with keeping it simple very much the order of the day the majority of the time.
Although that can be exactly what is needed a lot of the time, sometimes a bit more guile and imagination is required to help break down stubborn opponents. Liverpool legend Xabi Alonso is the perfect example of this.
Another former hero, Javier Mascherano, had a criminally underrated range of passing during his time at Liverpool.
As great a servant as Lucas has been to the Reds during his eight years on Merseyside, he is no longer someone who can be relied on week in, week out, and his influence is surely only going to decrease in the coming years.
Lucas is a player who has always divided opinion among Liverpool supporters. Some have never really warmed to him from day one, believing him to be little more than an average cog-in-the-wheel, while others feel he is the vital glue that holds the Reds together at times.
In truth, the 28-year-old is probably somewhere in between the two, and his future at Anfield does appear to be a little cloudy ahead of the summer.
In terms of being a squad player, Lucas is still a decent option to call upon when needed, but the club must look to sign a far superior defensive midfielder if they are to progress.
@LucasLeiva87 receives the first #goldensamba #sambaflashbacks pic.twitter.com/Srhy4RNksv
— Chris Maguire (@chrismaguire73) May 16, 2015
Lucas lacks the speed, movement and passing range to really thrive in the role now, and players like Geoffrey Kondogbia and Morgan Schneiderlin would represent a significant upgrade on him.
The experience, team ethic and influence Lucas has in the dressing room can still be absolutely vital to Rodgers’ squad though, which is a good enough reason alone to keep hold of him beyond the summer.
Should Liverpool keep or sell Lucas Leiva this summer? Have your say in the comments below.