Saudi Arabia
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2:00 PM UTC Jun 26, 2018
Match 38
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2:00 PM UTC Jun 26, 2018
Match 37
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6:00 PM UTC Jun 26, 2018
Match 40
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6:00 PM UTC Jun 26, 2018
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Transfer Rater: Alex Telles to Liverpool

Football Whispers

Transfer Rater: Xherdan Shaqiri to Liverpool

Football Whispers

Transfer Rater: Moses Simon to Liverpool

Football Whispers
 By Steven Kelly

Lucas' Liverpool career a mixture of resilience and restlessness

Lucas Leiva's departure to Lazio was an unassuming one for an unassuming player, who seemed to get a lot of Liverpool fans agitated despite his own inoffensive nature.

Bought by Rafael Benitez from Gremio in 2007, he was the least exciting purchase that year and yet he has outlasted all of them. Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun have long since left Anfield.

Benitez was able to call on Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano for central midfield, so from Day 1, affable Brazilian Lucas had a fight on his hands to stake a place in the side.

That he leaves after a decade with enough appearances to put him in Liverpool's all-time top 50 is testament to his diligence. It just as likely says something about the Reds' paucity of quality during that time, or even the amount of games modern clubs have to play.

His career at Anfield could well have been defined by one unsavoury night in March 2009 when, as a late substitute during a routine 2-0 win over Sunderland, he was booed on to the pitch.

It wasn't that many people who did such a stupid, contemptible thing but it was certainly enough to get noticed -- and it was not the first time, either.

A perception of managerial favouritism, coupled with what seemed like desperation to sell Alonso the previous summer -- he would eventually join Real Madrid a year later -- placed the young Brazilian in an awkward position.

That only made some supporters rally to his cause more, often exaggerating the player's merits and lashing out at any dissenting voices. It still seems crazy that such an innocuous player could be the centre of controversy.

As Liverpool began to weaken over the years, it was noticeable Lucas' performances remained steady. All teams need a stabilising base and it wasn't his fault the Reds lost class players while signing inadequate ones.

It sometimes felt like the player was jinxed. Liverpool's only trophy during his Anfield career came in 2012, while he was recovering from a long-term injury after he'd begun to win over doubters with strong, even inspirational performances.

When he returned to a regular starting spot, Liverpool's fortunes had once again declined. As the Brendan Rodgers side of season 2013-14 began to improve and even stage an unlikely title bid, Lucas was once again sidelined.

He returned in April 2014 after Jordan Henderson had been banned for three matches. Liverpool now had the title in their own hands but by the end of those three games they didn't. That had little or nothing to do with Lucas, but it felt once again as if he was cursed or it was all a giant coincidence.

Lucas' 10-year association with Liverpool has come to an end.

There have been times when he looked on the brink of a move before, but injuries and a willingness to serve kept him at Anfield. With the midfield places sewn up under Klopp by Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Emre Can, Lucas had to provide central defensive cover and wasn't always at his best in that role.

He played in his proper position during games only when Klopp chose to rest his first team, thus placing Lucas at the centre of more embarrassment like the 2-1 FA Cup defeat at home to Wolves last season. With Liverpool linked to RB Leipzig's Naby Keita, limited opportunities to play for Klopp's Reds would dry up completely. A move to Serie A is the right one for a 30-year-old who should have some productive years left.

If this all seems a dismissive take on a footballer's career, it must be noted that other qualities like loyalty, likeability and a determination to give everything count for something -- especially in an era when those qualities can be hard to find.

In his earlier days, Lucas came into the side when needed and often excelled. The 4-1 win at Manchester United in March 2009 was one such occasion and he gave another sterling performance in a 1-0 win at the San Siro against Inter Milan the year before. Surrounded by quality, Lucas would do his job and rarely let his manager down. Over the years there have been too many Liverpool players who couldn't make a similar claim.

Flaws in recruitment have hung honest players like Lucas and Henderson out to dry. Supporters will always identify with players who give everything, less so the players with genuine gifts. They at least recognised the player's contribution to what often has been a lost cause.

A fan on the pitch would play in much the same way as Lucas did. For a man born near the Brazil/Paraguay border to become a Kop favourite is what makes football the beautiful game it is, just as much as trophies and success.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.


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