IT was a moment which symbolised just how far Lucas Leiva has come.
As he cradled his baby son Pedro Lucas in his arms on the traditional lap of honour at Anfield last Sunday, he stopped off in front of the Kop for a special presentation.
The Brazil international was crowned Liverpool’s Player of the Year by members of the popular internet forum Red All Over The Land.
A poll on the site which is known as ‘The Rattle’ saw the midfielder land 75% of the votes and he’s now the proud owner of a golden adidas samba which supporters had mounted on a plinth.
It meant a great deal to the 24-year-old who has had to fight so hard to win over the club’s supporters since his £5million switch from Gremio in 2007.
“It was a really important day for me,” Lucas said.
“Of course I was a bit disappointed after the game because of the defeat but I was really proud to receive that award.
“I have it on display in my house. To get a trophy from the Kop means a lot and I must thank the fans for all their support.
“It’s been a very good season for me. I’m looking forward to helping the team keep improving next season and hopefully I can make the fans happy again.”
Last summer Lucas feared his days at Anfield were numbered. He was told if the Reds received a suitable offer he would be allowed to leave.
However, no bids were accepted and he knuckled down, determined to prove his critics wrong.
Over the past nine months he has done that emphatically. He has risen to the challenge following the departure of Javier Mascherano and been a model of consistency at the heart of the Reds’ midfield.
The boos he had to deal with during a tough start to his Liverpool career have been consigned to history and he’s guaranteed a warm reception from the travelling support in Sunday’s final game of the season at Aston Villa.
“I think it shows how in football things can change very quickly,” he said. “I know how hard I worked to be in this position. I wanted to prove I could be an important player for the team.
“I feel comfortable with the way I’m playing. I’m trying to show my qualities and take more responsibility.
“It’s great when you feel like you are important and a key player. I’ve had to take on responsibility and sometimes that’s helpful for a player.
“I have to try to keep the same level of performance. Hopefully we will start next season much better than we started this season and keep it going throughout the season.”
It’s been a whirlwind few months for Lucas. His progress on the pitch was rewarded in March with a new long-term contract and the deal was signed shortly after the birth of his son. He’s loving fatherhood and two-month-old Pedro Lucas will have his first trip home to South America next week when his dad begins preparations for the Copa America.
Lucas was named in a 28-man Brazil squad yesterday for friendlies against Holland and Romania on June 4 and 7.
They are warm-up games for the prestigious tournament in Argentina which gets underway on July 1.
“Some days can be hard with the baby but I’m really happy,” he said. “He’s growing really well and I’m looking forward to taking him home to Brazil.
“One day hopefully I’ll be watching him play. He’s been very lucky because he’s already been to a few games at Anfield. The Tottenham game was his first defeat. For sure he will be going to a lot of matches here next season and will grow up as a Liverpool fan.
“I’ll have a few days off next week and then be involved with Brazil. Hopefully I’ll be selected for the Copa America.
“I’ll give everything for my country and then come back here hungry to win titles with Liverpool.”
Lucas was one of the Reds’ best performers during the trouble reign of Roy Hodgson but since Kenny Dalglish took over in January his form has improved further. He believes he owes a debt of gratitude to Dalglish.
“Kenny has changed the whole atmosphere in the club,” he said.
“Everyone can see we are playing well and the spirit in the team is really good. Kenny has helped all of us. We know he’s a really important person for the club and the fans are really happy because he has signed a new contract.
“For everything he has done, he really deserves that contract. All the players are looking forward to working with him over the coming years.”
Lucas was speaking at the Liverpool FC ‘Goals 4 All’ Community Day held at Goals Soccer Centre in Speke.
He chatted with children and adults involved in a variety of the Reds’ community activities, including a group from St Vincent’s School for Blind and Partially Sighted Children. Lucas got involved in the session and took a penalty blindfolded, finding the bottom corner.
“It’s the first time I’ve done that and it’s really difficult,” he said. “It shows how hard these people work to play football. It’s really important the club help the community and it’s great to spend some time with these kids.
“Sometimes as a footballer you have difficult times but when you come and see people doing things like this it inspires you.”
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