His understated importance to the Liverpool cause was clear to see in Sunday’s victory at West Bromwich Albion but whether Lucas Leiva is still around at Anfield to enjoy the spoils of possible Champions League qualification is something not even the player himself knows.
Lucas, speaking in the wake of Liverpool’s 1-0 success at the Hawthorns, said that talk about his future was on hold until the summer as he focuses his attention on helping the team’s push for a top-four finish. The 30-year-old has underlined his worth once more in recent months, filling in both at centre-back and also as in the holding-midfield role vacated by injured captain Jordan Henderson.
Whether it will be enough to earn him a new contract, though, remains to be seen. Lucas, who has 12 months remaining on his current deal, said: “I don’t really know what will happen. I just need to focus on the last five games.
“The last few games I’ve played I feel very good. I’ve played centre-back and midfield, so I give some options to the manager and when he needs me, I always try to deliver. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but that happens with everyone. There’s no doubt about my commitment to Liverpool, I just need to wait until the end of the season, work hard and make a decision together with the club.”
Lucas has a strong relationship with Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, who appreciates the contribution that the club’s longest-serving player makes behind the scenes as well as on the pitch. In January, Klopp described the Brazilian as “a great personality, a good player and a really wonderful guy” when explaining that Lucas would not be joining Internazionale, amid interest from the Italian club in a loan move.
It is understood that Liverpool’s recognition of the player’s decade-long service means they would not stand in his way if an attractive long-term offer materialised from elsewhere. Equally, though, the club value what the 30-year-old, signed by Rafa Benitez in 2007, brings to the cause.
“I’ve been here long enough and if the time comes for me to go somewhere else I think I will leave with the feeling that I did everything I could,” Lucas added. “I think we’ll agree something good for both of us and then see. I would love to give the answer 100 per cent but unfortunately I can’t.”
Lucas did a fine job on his ninth league start of the campaign at the Hawthorns on Sunday, helping to protect Liverpool’s back four and break up play and, at 30, he still believes he should be playing regularly. “I’m getting to the stage of my career where I think I can help a lot, off the pitch of course, but on the pitch as well. I wouldn’t like to just be around – I am 30, I am not 35, 36. I feel I have many years that I can still play at the top level. I need to analyse and see what is best for me and the club and then I am sure we will make a decision together.”
First, of course, is the task of securing Champions League qualification and Lucas is optimistic after Sunday’s gutsy victory for third-placed Liverpool – a victory which highlighted Simon Mignolet’s improvement in goal and the strength of a Liverpool squad missing Henderson, Sadio Mané and Adam Lallana.
“It depends on us. It’s in our hands. We know teams will play each other and drop points and it’s impossible to win all the games. We just have to keep going and a win like today just gives you a real boost. Many teams come here and drop points and we managed to win and we managed to keep a clean sheet. We defended set-pieces very well, so it is not just about three points. A lot of things that we did were positive.”