We all love Lucas Leiva. That's a fairly obvious thing to say. He's a Liverpool fan favorite, is a delightfully likable player, has a magnificent smile, and his son Pedro is just the most adorable thing.
He's also not the player he used to be.
The ACL tear Lucas suffered in 2011 playing against Chelsea in the League Cup is still haunting him two and a half years on. Between that injury, a hamstring tear, a knee sprain, and various other niggles that have cropped up since then, and it's all served to sap him of the domineering talent in midfield we once saw and loved.
Lucas' range and explosiveness have been massively diminished since his injury, leaving him struggling to re-position at times and lacking that extra burst needed to catch a surging attacker on the counter. That's lead to a number of awkwardly-timed challenges and dangerous fouls, as Lucas is having to push to be where he needs to be in time and that leaves him off-balance when it comes time to make his tackle.
There is still hope that Lucas can adjust to his new limitations and play well within them. He is a very smart player who had previously always done well to play within his abilities and not get himself in trouble by trying to exceed them. The concern, though, is that even once he does make those adjustments, he may not have the pace to really hang with faster EPL attackers.
That's why this week's rumor of Inter Milan being interested in him made a certain sense. The slower pace and slightly more tactical nature of Serie A would suit modern-day Lucas much more from a physical standpoint, and he could potentially return to glory there. At 27 years old, Lucas should have plenty of time left in his career, but only if he finds the right fit for him. I'm not completely convinced that Inter is the best fit for him in the league, but it's likely a better fit for him than anywhere in England now, and it's a move he should seriously consider if offered.
Look, I love Lucas. You love Lucas. We all love Lucas. Keeping him around as midfield depth for the Champions League run seems like a viable option, but getting a less-limited player for that task might be better for Liverpool, and a move to Italy might be the best thing for Lucas and his career. As much as we all want to keep him at Anfield, if the club and Lucas both feel that his career will be best-served by being elsewhere, then the right thing to do will be to let him leave.
The day Lucas leaves Liverpool for the last time will be a sad one, but if it extends and improves his career, then the tears will be bittersweet. No matter what happens, I think we can all wish Lucas the best moving forward. Melhores fortunas, Lucas.
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