Lucas Leiva played his 300th game for Liverpool on Tuesday night. Not many would have put money on him reaching that milestone during his first two years with the club, as the Brazilian midfielder became a bit of a scapegoat to many fans disappointed at the club's performances. He persevered, though, and as the club suffered in the wake of Rafa's departure and Hodgson's appointment, he stepped up to try and fill the hole left by Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano, becoming a cult figure in the process.
A catastrophic knee injury in 2011 derailed his momentum, and smaller injuries have cropped up in subsequent years. Since then, he has been an eternally divisive figure in the fan base, with opinions ranging from useless waste of space that can't score goals to best defensive midfielder in the world and captain elect. Rumours of impending departure follow him every transfer window, yet he keeps finding his way into the XI, as managers and players come and leave. As the team's longest serving player, he has been part of epic Champion's League runs, two near-successful title tilts, as well as the lowest points in Liverpool's recent history, including the threat of adminstration under Hicks and Gillett back in 2010.
Yet, for all that, he has never played at Wembley, despite the club making 3 appearances at the venue in his time here. And for Lucas, that is a crying shame.
"Fingers crossed now! Everyone knows I've never played [at Wembley] and we still have a month to go but I ask everyone to pray that I can get there and help Liverpool to win!
"I always helped to get there but have never been able to be in the final because of [different] issues. Hopefully I will be this time and that's why I'm really happy. Today I played my 300th game for the club [as well], it's amazing.
"[Playing at Wembley] was always in my mind but I don't want to talk too much because it's still [far away]. I remember last year when we got to the semi-final [of the FA Cup] and the day before the game I got an injury, but I'm sure it won't happen again!
"I'm doing everything right, I think this year has been a very good year for me and I think I deserve to play there and hopefully win a title for the club."
Though this writer is sure some may disagree, one would think most fans wouldn't begrudge Lucas the pleasure of a Wembley appearance and win. If for nothing else, then at least for the way he hammered the ball - and some choice words - in the direction of the Stoke supporters after he buried his penalty last night.
Lucas also reflected on his experience at the club so far, life, the universe, and everything.
"It's been a lot of up and down, as everyone knows, but I think my life, especially here for Liverpool, has always been like this. I’ve always had to fight until the end and just show every single day that I really love the club and I do everything I can to help.
"Sometimes it doesn't work too well but that's life, that's football, and you just have to keep going and fighting because if you show passion and determination I think that's the first thing people want to see. After that it's the performance but I think I've been having a good season."
So. Maybe just win it for Papa Lucas? Yeah, win it for Papa Lucas.