On July 18, 2017 it was confirmed that Lucas Leiva, Liverpool’s longest-serving player, would indeed be leaving Merseyside after 10 loyal years to join Italian side SS Lazio in Rome. For many football fans, this news was probably lost among the bigger headlines such as Neymar to PSG for €222 million, Morata to Chelsea for €80 million, Riyad Mahrez to AS Roma or Aubameyang to the Premier League.
But to the die-hard Liverpool fans, Lucas leaving was massive news that hit the heart. When the 30-year-old Brazilian first joined the club from Grêmio in Brazil for £5 million, many thought he would offer the skill and technique typically associated with South American midfielders. Little did we know he would develop into one of the Premier League’s best box-to-box defensive midfielders making 345 appearances and winning the League Cup in 2012. Between 2010 and 2016 Lucas led the Premier League in tackles per game five times in six seasons. His popularity at the club was evident as he was named Young Player of the Year in 2010 and Fans' Player of the Year in 2011.
As his career continued, Liverpool began to rely on Lucas for his consistency on the defensive side of the midfield and his superb professionalism on and off the pitch. He also became somewhat of a cushion for foreign players; helping them adapt to life in the city and in England. He endured 5 different managers in his 10 years (Benitez, Dalglish, Hodgson, Rogers, Klopp) who all found a use for him in the team, whether in a starting role or coming off the bench which shows his class and adaptability.
A quality, committed player like Lucas is very difficult to come by in today’s game. Although he is not from Liverpool, many of the local fans attribute him as one of their own: A Red that would compete to the fullest in every game. A Red willing to go toe-to-toe with the best. A Red loyal to his club.
Lucas Leiva – Always a Red. Always a Scouser
In a classy open letter to Liverpool fans, Lucas wrote:
"When I first joined Liverpool 10 years ago, I had three main ambitions.
First, I wanted to win a place in the team, which I managed to do. Next, I hoped to prove myself worthy of the shirt, an aim that others will be better placed than me to decide whether or not it was achieved. Finally, I looked ahead to the future with a hope that if and when the time came to leave this wonderful club I would do so on the best possible terms.
That time has now come as I prepare for a new career at Lazio and while I am saddened that my days at Anfield are coming to an end, I can at least take comfort from the knowledge that my relationship with Liverpool and the supporters is stronger than ever.
This is one of the greatest clubs in the world and my intention had always been to spend the rest of my career here but the less I have been able to play, the more I have realised that I need to go to another club if I want to play as much as I possibly can.
When you love a club and a city as much as I love Liverpool that isn't an easy decision to come to. The easiest thing for me to do would be to stay here for as long as I can even if I do not expect to play so often, but that would go against everything that I believe in as a footballer and as a competitor.
It is for that reason that I will be joining Lazio, which means my sadness at leaving Liverpool is accompanied by a real excitement that I will be representing one of Italy's great clubs. Before I made my decision to take the opportunity to go to Italy, I discussed my situation with Jürgen Klopp and the way he handled it showed once again how respectful he is to his players. I am grateful to him and to all of the managers I worked under at Liverpool, especially the ones who showed faith in me when it would have been easy to do the opposite.
My priority now is to look ahead to a new chapter in my career in the belief that I can contribute to Lazio in the same way that I hope I have helped Liverpool. I have been blessed to live and work in this city, a place that I have come to realise is different to any other, and while living here I have been married and blessed with two wonderful children so whatever happens now we will always take Liverpool with us everywhere we go. I have also been fortunate to play with so many world-class teammates and shared their devotion to do everything that we could to help the club be as good as it can be.
Off the pitch, I was honoured to become a trustee of the LFC Foundation and got to see at first hand the work they do in the local community. When I celebrated being at Liverpool for a decade recently, it meant a lot to hear some of the children who the Foundation has helped describe me as a Scouser.
I might not have won as many trophies as I would have liked during my time here but to have people talk about me in that way means as much as any medal. The same goes for the video I was sent on Friday which showed the fans, many of them young, singing my name during the game at Wigan Athletic. To be the recipient of that support and that passion makes me so proud.
It is for those reasons – and many, many more – that Liverpool Football Club and its supporters will always have a special place in my heart. On top of that, the personality, humour, dignity and integrity of the people of this city will also stay with me forever.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to every single Liverpool fan. My family and myself will always be grateful for your support and for being part of this great club, which means we will also be sad now that the time has come for me to leave. All I can say now is that I hope more than anything else that the new season turns out to be a great one for my new club and my old club."
Author: Andrew Scanlon