Lucas Leiva is one of Liverpool Football Club's longest serving players, and as such, he's had to adjust to several managerial changes over his time there. Having being brought in by Rafa Benitez, he survived the reigns of Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish, and Brendan Rodgers, despite several close calls over several transfer windows. Now he has the chance to prove his worth under new manager Jürgen Klopp.
He's no longer the young, scrappy and hungry 20-year-old that Benitez plucked from Gremio. Now, he's 28 years old, a veteran who has had to deal with a string of serious injuries that have dimmed some of his speed and potency. Despite this, Lucas continues to be optimistic about this new chapter in his career, showcasing his well-known work ethic and generally congenial disposition when discussing the new manager.
"I think I’m always learning," he said. "Managers have their own views of the game, and a different approach, it’s never too late to learn and improve. Of course, you get towards the end of your career and it becomes harder but I don’t think I’m there yet. I still have a lot to learn, a lot to improve, and that’s what I’m doing every day."
Indeed, once he received his opportunity to retake a position in the squad due to the injury of captain Jordan Henderson, Lucas once again showed his importance to the team. As Liverpool's only defensive midfielder, Lucas has unique qualities that are missed when he's not in the side.
Managers do have their own preferred styles of play. Brendan Rodgers's did not seem to value Lucas's considerable skillset, but with Klopp Lucas has another chance to prove his importance. Klopp's previous assertion that "if there is a tackle that is legal, that is a good tackle that gets the ball, it’s like a goal" bodes well for Lucas, who excels at that particular aspect of the game.
Regarding the pressure of impressing a new manager, Lucas was frank, admitting, "For players who have been playing every game with one manager and the other comes is always [tough]. Players feel like they have to prove themselves again and have to make this guy like me. But we are used to this and as a team I just think we see it as an opportunity to improve really.
"Of course he seems to be a very open manager, very straight. His approach is very comfortable but if he doesn’t like something, he will say it because that’s the way he feels and that’s the only way we are going to improve.
"We listen, and there has been a lot of information for us, and this last week has been very positive."
If nothing else, Klopp should be impressed by Lucas's professionalism, loyalty, and impeccable work ethic. Though he's been linked to moves away from Anfield, Lucas has been persistent in his desire to stay at Liverpool and earn his place in the side. Under Brendan Rodgers, he had to do this in just about every season, and yet in the end, he outlasted the manager who attempted to send him out on loan as recently as late August.
Lucas is one of many players who fans are excited to see flourish under the tutelage of Klopp. It's encouraging to see that he too is relishing this new opportunity.