Lucas injured at Chelsea
IT was one of the most shameful episodes in the Kop’s long and usually illustrious Liverpool FC existence.
As the fourth official’s board went up during the second half of a dismal home goalless draw against Fulham, the realisation it was not Lucas Leiva’s number lit up in lights prompted deafening jeers from the Anfield crowd.
That was a little over three years ago.
How times change.
On Tuesday, the sight of the number 21 lighting up the dark Stamford Bridge air immediately led to groans from the sizeable travelling Liverpool support.
From regular scapegoat, Lucas has transformed himself during the past 18 months into one of Kenny Dalglish’s most trusted and influential lieutenants and arguably the most consistently impressive defensive midfielder in the Premier League.
So the news the Brazilian could now miss the rest of the season is a devastating blow to both the player and his team.
Few footballers would have survived the constant barracking, usually from our good old friends the internet warriors but almost as often from so-called experts, Lucas endured following his move from Gremio in July 2007.
Rafael Benitez, though, was adamant. “People just don't know how good Lucas is,” said the Spaniard having grown increasingly fed up at defending his £6million signing.
He was right. To be fair, Roy Hodgson also quickly saw what Lucas brought to the team – despite, as the grapevine would have it, Christian Purslow’s insistence the player should be sold – and Dalglish has seen no reason to question his predecessor’s judgement.