Having read through numerous posts in the transfer forum about Benteke this summer and how wrong it is that weíre supposedly interested in him, it struck me how much we as fans are negative and how much worry about things - who weíre signing, who weíre not signing but should do, who we think the manager should be signing because we know what he wants better than he does - so much so sometimes that we donít look at what we have and the things we should be happy about. With Steven Gerrard leaving the club officially this week, it means that Lucas Leiva is our longest serving player and whilst to some, itís symptomatic of our decline (the reality is much more complex than that of course), to me itís a testament to him as a player and a person that heís been here for that long, managed to turn around a significant number of opinions about him and become a genuine part of this club.
Arriving in 2007 from Gremio for £5m as a 20 year old, into the best midfield in the worldTM
, Lucas perhaps suffered from not having any standout/eye-catching qualities as well as being unsurisingly unable to live up to the midfielders we already had at the club - he didnít have the dynamism of Gerrard or the nimbleness and passing of Alonso or the tenacity of Mascherano or the, uh, boss-ness of Momo.
Of course, he was none of those players. What he was was his own player and he had his own style, heck I donít think we had a steering wheel in the squad when he arrived and it was and still is a pretty apt metaphor for him. For some, that wasnít enough unfortunately and itís still a shame that he had to endure such a disproportionate amount of criticism during his early years here.
But it tells you something about him that heís still here eight years later, during which heís become one of the elder statesmen in the squad, captained the side and all four managers heís played under seem unable to shake him off. I think they all recognise his ability - to me, thatís never been in question - but more than that, his attitude and personality. Heís really easy to manage, never causing a problem when he doesnít play (which has been the case increasingly under Rodgers) and generally always performing to a high a standard when he does. Heís like an extra lock on the door -
- knowing heís there makes everything that little bit better.
For someone who doesnít score too many (I think scoring against Havant & Waterlooville was a cruel jape lulling us into a false sense of what might be in the coming years), he does have a habit of scoring in every competition he plays in. So naturally Iím hoping for a couple in the Community Shield and European Super Cup at some point to take his tally for us up to nine. Of course Iím still counting the winner in the Merseyside Derby as well, even if the record books say it was taken away from him by that awful player/pundit/coach Phil Neville.
And aside from what he delivers on the pitch, heís really easy to take to - be it through interviews, social media, helping new signings settle in or things like the video with him and Henderson recently, heís always been complimentary during his time here even though, with some justification, he doesnít have to be. And thatís a big part of what means so much to supporters. As well as his performances on the pitch, heís taken to the club more than most players do and itís the the kind of thing that ingratiates players to the supporters.
With the current discussions about Rodgers and defensive midfielders, Lucasí position at the club is heavily referenced but itíd be a real shame to lose him, not just as a very good footballer but also as a person, someone whoís now become entwined with the fabric of the club and someone who gives real heart to the game. Iím hoping thatís not any time soon though, I still want to see Benteke setting him up for the winner in the Club World Cup. That would make everyone happy wouldnít it? Plus I donít think heís scored in that competition yet either.