2JEMN8R June 27, 2022, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil: The player Lucas Leiva, is presented as a new reinforcement of Gremio, at Arena do Gremio, this Monday 27th. (Credit Image: © Richard Ducker/Sport Press Photo via ZUMA Press)

Lucas Leiva scores to clinch promotion for boyhood club – “A unique moment!”

It was a fairytale end to a first season back at Gremio for Lucas Leiva, who scored a rare goal to help seal promotion back to the Brazilian top flight.

After 15 years away, Lucas made an emotional return to Gremio in June, turning down offers from clubs in stronger positions than the Porto Alegre side to achieve one clear goal.

“For me, it doesn’t matter where Gremio is, what matters is having the opportunity to represent this team that means so much to me,” he explained upon signing.

“The club made an effort to bring me and I made an effort to return, the most important thing is to put vanities and ego aside for a single objective, which is to return to Serie A.”

Gremio had dropped down to the second tier in 2021 having finished 17th, ending a 16-year run in the top flight, and had set their sights on a swift return.

The signing of Lucas, whose deal with Lazio had recently expired, was an ambitious one, sealing a reunion with a player who left for Liverpool back in 2007.

It paid off, with the 35-year-old leading his boyhood club back to Serie A with two games left to play.

With the top four teams in Serie B promoted, Gremio needed victory over bottom side Nautico to guarantee their place on Sunday – and did so by a 3-0 scoreline, with Lucas netting the game’s second goal.

Lucas, operating as a more advanced midfielder, was involved in the opener for Bitello, before Nautico’s Geuvanio received a straight red card for a studs-up challenge.

Just after the hour mark, Liverpool’s old No. 21 then doubled his side’s advantage with a close-range finish after a ghosting run, forced to wait for a VAR check before he could celebrate his third goal since rejoining.

Bitello then wrapped it up with a comfortable finish on the rebound, allowing Gremio to savour their return to Serie A.

“First of all I want to thank Gremio for giving me the opportunity to live a unique moment in the history of the club,” Lucas wrote on Instagram.

“I was able to help go up twice and wanted the decider to be in the Aflitos. A movie flashed through my head when my kick made it 2-0.”

The significance of the tie being at Nautico’s Estadio dos Aflitos is due to an historic promotion clash between the two sides in 2005, when Lucas came off the bench in a game that saw Gremio pick up four red cards but still win 1-0.

“From November 26, 2005 to October 23, 2022, a lot happened, but the most important thing we accomplished: we went up!” he reflected.

“The next year will be full of challenges, but now is the time to celebrate with family, friends and fans.

“I want to thank everyone for the trust that brought me here, even with moments that I didn’t even expect to pass. Thanks. We’re back!”