Spending nearly eight months out with an ACL injury and another three with a thigh tear added up to a difficult 2012 for Lucas Leiva, and since his return against Southampton in December he has at times struggled to match his pre-injury form. With the season winding down, though, the player believes he has grown ever closer to it and that next season will see him back to his best.
"I knew it was going to be a difficult season for me, coming back from a difficult injury," admitted the midfielder. "Unfortunately, I got another bad one at the beginning of the season [but] in the last five or six games I really felt better. Next season is going to be an important one for me because I think I will be at the level I was before the injury."
If he does manage to consistently return to the level he was at before suffering an ACL tear in December of 2011 against Chelsea in the League Cup, it will provide a massive boost to the club's chances of a successful 2013-14 season. For the time being, though, like many Lucas was more caught up by events of the present—namely, Jamie Carragher's final game as a Red.
"We were more emotional than Carra probably," he admitted following Sunday's 1-0 victory over QPR at Anfield that sent the 17-season veteran out with a win. "As he says, he's not an emotional person but we can see what he's done for the club. I hope I can get half of his achievements because I would be very proud.
"On a daily basis you can see his passion. Every day he is a warrior and a fighter—he doesn't like to lose anything. That shows the character that he has. He is a symbol of the club."
Next season, it will be up to the club's remaining senior players—a group that now includes Lucas—to step up and replace if not Carragher's contributions as a football player his contributions as a leader and symbol of the club. Given how far Lucas has come, both in his career as a Liverpool player and in his efforts to return from a year spent mostly on the sidelines, it might not be smart to bet against him doing just that.
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