Lucas: Gerrard Better Than Ronaldinho

Lucas was sure he could learn to clap as magisterially as Stevie...some day...some day. - Michael Dodge

Ahead of his testimonial tomorrow, Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard has been accruing all manner of tributes from all corners of the globe. One of the most notable has come from his midfield mucker, Lucas Leiva.

It's all going to get a bit dewy-eyed and nostalgic around here over the next twenty four hours, as we build up to Saturday's Steven Gerrard Testimonial against Olympiacos FC. You see, a strange thing has happened over the last while. I've found myself involved in serious conversations about the finest Liverpool player of all-time and, for the first time in my life, I haven't either condescendingly dismissed or threatened violence upon anyone not suggesting Kenny Dalglish.

Steven Gerrard is the first man to lace up boots in the Anfield dressing-room who could even realistically begin to compete with The King for the title of Greatest LFC Player. For me, and many of my ilk and generation, Dalglish is unassailable in that position, but for many of you reading this, Steven Gerrard is Liverpool and Liverpool is Steven Gerrard. He is the reason many of you will have built an affinity with the club, the reason some will have stayed through the many dark days and part of the reason many are hopeful about the future. The man and the club are inextricably linked and will always remain thus.

Encouragingly, the club has recognised the unique nature of the man and, aside from his recently signed contract extension, there has been an arrangement in place for some time now to bind Gerrard to the club in an ambassadorial role, which may, given his increasingly statesman-like demeanour, blossom into something more. At the very least, one can imagine the Huyton midfield general in a role akin to that occupied by Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid.

Lest it seem as though we are hastening the end of this special talent's contributions on the pitch, let us return the focus to the immediate future and the role we hope Steven Gerrard will play in edging Liverpool closer to the kind of status his talent has always deserved. There will be no shortage of well-intentioned folk rhapsodising about our number eight as the day unfolds but one tribute which had particular gravitas, for this scribbler at least, came from Lucas Leiva, a man some have seen as the heir apparent to Gerard's armband.

Leiva knows a thing or two about excellent footballers having shared dressing rooms with the best Liverpool team of the last twenty years as well as the finest talent Brazil has produced of late. Indeed, the classy defensive midfielder insists that Gerrard would be right at home in the yellow jersey as well as the red one.

"Definitely, he would be one of the starters, of course," Lucas opined to LFC TV. "He has been a world-class player for many years. Everyone that speaks about him, and players from Brazil, rate him very highly. He's probably the best, I would say most complete player. I had the chance to play with Ronaldinho and other magic players, but Stevie has everything. He is able to score goals but he can still defend very well. I think he is the best midfielder I have played with. When I came here very young, I was lucky to be able to watch him a lot and learn. It's a different style of play but you can still learn a lot from him and I'm still learning, to be honest."

Lucas has shared a training pitch with Gerrard for six of the Liverpudlian's ten years as skipper of the club and there is a palpable respect between the two men on the pitch nowadays. Perhaps the incredible courage and will displayed by Lucas in his efforts to overcome the twin horrors of fan disdain and long-term injury has impressed Gerrard. Certainly the admiration flows freely in the opposite direction.

"It doesn't matter what you need to do to be able to perform and win -- that's his message every day. He has been in difficult moments, with injuries and low points, but he always gets his head down and works really hard to get back. that's what I take from him. He does everything he can to be in the right shape and perform well -- we can see when he doesn't think that he has performed well, he really shows us.

"That means he is a winner and he wants to win every single time. We can see what he has achieved. I was lucky to get the best years of Stevie at the club, probably. He has been brilliant during his whole career for Liverpool and it is a well deserved testimonial. But he still has the hunger to train and that's what players should look at. He is what Liverpool is about -- a winner with the right mentality. That's what the club always tries to look for -- players with a winning mentality and a lot of passion for the club."

He gets it, does Lucas Leiva. Gerrard is the embodiment of that fighting spirit that makes fans believe; that allows them to dream. At times he has shouldered that burden heavily, plagued by his own anxieties, but he has never failed to show the kind of pride in his position that all supporters can relate to. His brilliance has made us greedy. We want to see him pull off last-ditch sliding tackles after lung-bursting runs, we crave the magical passes only he can produce and most of all we desire the majestic goals that have become the trademark of this most unique of talents.

We have been lucky to witness the career of Steven Gerrard thus far. It would be typical of the man's immaculate sense of timing and outrageous talent to have saved maybe the biggest highlights for the final years of his Anfield playing days. We can dream. Steven Gerrard has shown us how.

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