It was on 26 July 2007, that Rafa Benitez officially unveiled to all Liverpool fans Lucas Pezzini Leiva, or simply, Lucas.
He came with pedigree, as the youngest player to ever receive Placar magazine’s Bola de Ouro (Golden Ball) presented to the best player in the Brazilian league for that particular season. A highly prestigious award in Brazil, boasting the likes of such world class superstars as Zico, Falcão, Careca, Alex, Romario, Kaká and Tevez, as its past recipients.
Needless to say, a lot was expected from the 20-year-old.
With Lucas’s second anniversary coming up, how has our young Brazilian faired in English football?
It would not be unfair to say that Lucas has not exactly set Anfield on fire with his silky Brazilian skills. And I must admit that I have yet to see what it was that Rafa saw in this skinny, shaggy haired little lad from Grêmio.
I don’t think that I am alone in my disillusionment to date with a player from whom we all expected magic ball skills, great free-kicks and some spectacular goals. But Lucas is not a ‘samba-style’ footballer, as we found out.
Regardless of more disappointing outing that impressive ones, Rafa has never stopped singing the praises of a player who not only, at a tender age, captained his club side but also Brazil at Under-20 level. Rafa has continued to consistently support and encourage Lucas, hoping that he will come out of his shell and show the fans what it was the he saw in him.
Moreover, there has been nothing but praise from all his teammates, who can’t stop telling us what a wonderful professional Lucas is and that we have yet to see what they see in training every day.
I must admit that there have been times where I have been screaming in frustration at Lucas’s displays for the Reds. So I decided to see for myself what it was that Rafa and his team-mates have been raving about.
What I found on YouTube took me by complete surprise. I saw goals, killer passes, and displays of deft Brazilian skills. This boy can play. There was energy, passion and drive.
Where is all this? Where and why is he hiding this talent?
At Liverpool, he seems to loll around and the game seems to pass him by. At Grêmio, he was a powerhouse youngster with a real fire in his belly.
But the one thing on display in bucket loads, that we see such little of when he plays for Liverpool, was confidence. It oozed from the Gremio Lucas. Maybe that is why Rafa and his teammates play him up so much. Lucas is a confidence player, he needs it to perform.
It is hard not to criticise, as we fans demand so much from our players. In fact it is even more frustrating now because, contrary to my old opinions, Lucas can run, pass, shot, head and dribble. So when I think back to those lame performances, it is even more infuriating now, as I know he can do so much better.
I hope this is the season that we see the real Lucas, for he can, without a doubt, be an integral part of Liverpool’s bid for their nineteenth title and in doing so put his own critics to bed once and for all.