Last week, Besiktas thought they were about to sign Lucas Leiva on a season-long loan. The Turkish club saw the Liverpool midfielder fall out of favour with Brendan Rodgers and made his signing a priority, launching negotiations that had reached an advanced stage.
Their transfer chief said he expected Lucas would be "wearing the black and white soon," and a board member had called the loan deal "likely." There were even reports Lucas was scheduled to be on a plane to Turkey on Tuesday morning to undergo a medical with the Super Lig club.
Then, following Jordan Henderson’s injury, he got a chance to impress against Arsenal on Monday night. And, as has so often been the case, Liverpool’s midfield clearly functioned better with Lucas in it than it had over the first few games of the season when he had been out of it.
Following the match, Rodgers said he didn’t see Lucas leaving before the end of the window, and reports from club-connected journalists claimed the manager had been convinced of the his value by the stellar performance. Today, we get confirmation from Turkey that any deal has fallen through.
"Liverpool do not want him to go," said Besiktas president Fikret Orman today as reports emerged that Lucas was training with the Liverpool first team again ahead of their match against West Ham. "The transfer can only go ahead with their say, so there is nothing we can do right now."
Lucas may not be the fastest player on the pitch or offer much attacking threat, but his presence has always freed up others to simply do their jobs. His ability to always do the right thing in a screening role helps to settle the defence and frees the more creative players to attack.
It’s hardly a revelatory concept, of course. Every continental manager worth his salt knows well the value of a quality holding player. In particular, Chelsea boss and Rodgers’ one-time mentor Jose Mourinho has always made a point of setting up with a controlling destroyer anchoring his side.
The role of holding midfielder may not call for a great deal of obvious flair, but the best holding players have spent careers honing their defensive instincts and reading of the game. They may not add to the goals directly, but their presence provides a foundation for others to add to their tallies.
For Liverpool, this means freeing Milner and Henderson and Can to move up and avoids a jumbled, uncertain midfield mess, blunted in attack and leaving gaps in defence. It avoids the particularly English folly of pairing the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard then wondering why it isn’t working.
Liverpool look better with Lucas Leiva in the side. They looked better on Monday with him in it. Hopefully, Brendan Rodgers has finally come to grips with this fact. Certainly that Besiktas are now being told to go away is a very, very promising sign of that.
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