This year is Lucas Leiva’s 10th at Liverpool, making the Brazilian by far the longest-serving player at the club.
Since his move to the club in 2007, Lucas has been a part of two Liverpool teams that almost won the Premier League, and remains one of the few players at the club who have won silverware at Anfield, with Jordan Henderson the only other senior player to have done so.
Lucas was reported to be leaving Liverpool last summer, but stayed for another year, despite reports that he might also leave in the January transfer window.
Lucas is a consummate professional, a great character and he has been at the club longer than anyone. But amidst more rumours over his future the question remains, should he be kept around for another season?
An experienced head
The advantages of keeping Lucas on the books are obvious. He’s a seasoned and experienced professional who clearly cares deeply for the club and will always give his utmost for the team.
Moreover, he’s been impressive in the last few years in a defensive midfield role that remains an issue for Liverpool, with Henderson’s foot problems simply not going away. In terms of defensive midfielders at the club, assuming Kevin Stewart departs, Lucas could still have a vital role to play.
Moreover, on top of his qualities as a defensive midfielder, Liverpool can benefit from having someone of Lucas’ experience in and around the dressing room.
Liverpool are a young, talented side, but other than James Milner and Henderson, they’re lacking leaders on and off the pitch. Someone like Lucas, who has been there and done that with the club over the last ten years could be a vital asset.
More quality required
But the issue remains, is Lucas a good enough defensive midfielder to be starting for Liverpool?
Some would argue that the evidence speaks for itself, and that his performances against Everton and West Brom indicate that he still has a role to play as a defensive midfielder.
Moreover, all of his poor performances this season have come when he’s been played horribly out of position at centre-back, and that’s an error that should be attributed to Jürgen Klopp, and not Lucas himself.
But the fact remains that Liverpool need a world-class defensive midfielder.
Henderson has done a terrific job there this season, and when called upon Emre Can has been fantastic in the role, but Liverpool remain in need of a scrappy, tough defensive-midfielder. And every year that Lucas is at the club, Liverpool are not signing a replacement for him.
Lucas can do a job at both centre-back and defensive midfield, but should he? Or should Liverpool be less sentimental towards a man who has poured himself into the club for a decade, and start being more ruthless?
The truth is that even in his prime, Lucas was only ever a class player for a year or two, and his Liverpool career has been very scattershot. Lucas is a player remembered fondly for his longevity, but has the Liverpool team that he’s been a vital part of been particularly impressive during his time at the club? Not really.
Both sides of the debate have their merits. Would Liverpool be a better team with Lucas in it next season? Well that really depends. Lucas can still do a job effectively on occasion, but in general he’s simply not up to scratch for a top-four fight.
Whatever happens with Lucas in the summer, Liverpool need to be upgrading their midfield.
If that leaves space for the Brazilian in the squad, then that’s okay, but realistically, Liverpool cannot afford to be relying as heavily on him next season as they have this season, especially at centre-back, as he is not good enough.