Why the time is finally right for Lucas Leiva to leave Liverpool


The broken glass will have to be repaired, the in case of emergency contact updated, the safety blanket packed away. Lucas Leiva is leaving Liverpool. For real this time.

A curious Reds career will draw to a close when the Brazilian signs on the dotted line for Lazio, bringing an end to a decade of service on Merseyside during which he was equal parts scapegoat and lightning rod.

Ten years ago, a wide-eyed, callow 20-year-old bounded onto the pitch to make his Premier League debut in a Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, coming on for a far too wired Steven Gerrard and later winning the penalty from which Liverpool would win the game. Lucas can’t have thought that he’d one day turn into this. He’s the elder statesman, and the safe pair of hands who would often bring a cynical element to matches in a bid to get his young teammates through games.

In fact if that 2007 derby – the infamous one featuring two Liverpool penalties, a wild Dirk Kuyt lunge on Phil Neville (probably where Carles Puyol got his inspiration from) and Jamie Carragher’s wrestling move on Joleon Lescott, all leading to Mark Clattenburg not refereeing an Everton home game for the next six years – should be the game we regard as Lucas’s introduction, then Everton’s visit to Anfield in April should be seen as his final bow.

Although he’d go on to play well (and even register assists) in the crucial wins at West Brom and Watford which followed it, the calmness and composure he brought to that Anfield derby should be seen as a fitting swansong. On a day when Liverpool – 3-1 winners – made Everton dance to their tune, Lucas was leading the band.

So why’s he going then? Why now? Especially ahead of a season in which Liverpool will play more matches because of European involvement?

From a purely football point of view, the answer probably lies in Jurgen Klopp’s confidence that Jordan Henderson’s recent injury issues are behind him, as well as his assertions that we might be finally starting to see the elusive green shoots of consistency from Emre Can, a player who’ll surely sign a new contract soon and is starting to look up and realise that his ceiling really is quite high.

Then there’s also a couple of recent signs that Georginio Wijnaldum’s future might feature him moving even deeper into midfield, the potential additions of Naby Keita and/or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and, given that it’s pre-season, Marko Grujic’s sudden reminders to everyone that he can often look pretty good, too.

Following last season’s August to December fun, it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see Liverpool start some Premier League games with Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho as two of the three in midfield, thereby opening up a whole world of possibilities for whoever will play in the three positions ahead of them, but not exactly offering much hope to plenty of those who can play behind.

Indeed, the most compelling argument for keeping Lucas on would have been to consider him purely as a centre-back, a position he’s often been admirable in during Klopp’s time in charge.

But a specialist one of those – a hugely expensive one perhaps based on the south coast – will also be coming in eventually. It’ll be between him, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip to play most of the time, with Klopp wanting to have Ragnar Klavan around as a fourth choice getting an odd cup game. The seemingly unflappable, vastly experienced Estonian – a centre-back’s centre-back – seems happy with that, and so you can understand the manager’s thinking.


But there’s also a dutiful aspect to letting Lucas go, with a man who has given 10 years’ service to one club now vastly deserving of the chance to make an impact at another.

It is quite ironic that after coming through as a wide-eyed youngster, people have spent the last few years treating the Brazilian as an aged senior pro, yet he’s only 30. A player with 24 caps for Brazil, he has every chance of adding to that total should he do well at a Lazio side that often impressed last season, and this could be the shot in the arm that his career needs.

He deserves the chance to do more than just try to help guide some exciting Liverpool youngsters through a tricky FA Cup tie, or to come on for the final five minutes of a league game as the Reds resist all of their urges and try to hang on to a lead. Plus it would be no surprise to see him make a real improvement in Serie A.

He’ll be missed at Liverpool, though, where his dedication, character and no little quality will be hard to replace.

He’s gone, but unlike so, so many of Lucas’ teammates during Liverpool’s last, ever-revolving decade, he won’t be forgotten.