In Defence of Lucas Leiva

In Defence of Lucas Leiva
March 10, 2009 Paul Tomkins

Rafa Benítez had his latest press conference interrupted by a "guerilla journalist" (i.e., a wanker) pressing him on why he persists with Lucas Leiva.

I’ll admit to being disappointed with how the Brazilian has performed this season; I expected more, and he's had a few stinkers. But he is a full international and the Brazilian league’s footballer of the year from 2007, when aged just 20. Even now, he’s still only 22, and fighting on the fringes of the first team, knowing he won’t get a run of games with the current quality in his position.

His great pedigree doesn’t mean that he will therefore be a success here. However, it does pretty much prove that he has talent; this is no player plucked from non-league football on a whim (or following a phone call from a “Mr George Weah”), but a proper footballer.

What Lucas needs is confidence, and being booed, slated and groaned at isn’t going to help that; the groans I understand, as we all do it when the ball is given away, but the boos are not acceptable, and about as far from helpful as you can get.

His every mistake is seized upon, his every good moment ignored. But history tells us that today’s whipping boy can still be tomorrow’s idol.

And Benítez has every right to put his faith in a player he believes in. Sometimes you have to stick with players through bad spells to allow them to come out the other side.

Don’t believe me? Well, read on. I’ve Googled a few things from a couple of years back, to prove my point:

Adebayor Is Useless
December 26, 2007, 9:57 pm
Posted by Kevin in General
Adebayor is USELESS

I know I've been gone for ages, but I just wanted to share that with you all.

He can't pass the ball properly!

Drop him Wenger. Play Bendtner.

And NO whining comments either!!!

Posted by Norman  
on December 26, 2007, 10:24 pm
Adebayor is the worst frontman I can remember playing for the Gunners. He is useless. I am a big Gunners fan but was hoping that the opossition scores
[PT:Gotta love that gem!] and that might force Wenger to replace Adebayor!

Posted by konaing  
on December 26, 2007, 10:11 pm
right man!Mother fucker Adebayor .
wenger should know he Adebayor is useless.

Posted by Grant  
on December 26, 2007, 10:11 pm
Totally agree, the guy is complete and utter shite! No ball control, moves all break down with him poor decision making, always tries to beat a player and almosty [PT: great new word!] never succeeds. How can a player of his calibre be our star striker?

I got bored of reading at that point, it was so repetitive.

And this was after Adebayor had started the season well, and been their top scorer until the previous weekend.

Or maybe there’s the Facebook group from the same time, entitled “Adebayor is fucking rubbish, get him out of Arsenal & back to fucking Togo”, and subtitled “Emmanuel Adebayor is an absolute cunt”.

His attitude may not be the best, as seen by his desire to leave, but by the end of 2007/08 he was a bona fide Gunners’ hero, with 30 goals. But initially, fans couldn’t escape the pretty awful first year or two he had in England.

Reading the opinions of other teams’ most stupid fans on their own players and managers is something I should perhaps do more of, as it’d make me feel less depressed about the brain-dead Reds who pollute the internet.

Then there’s the Darren Fletcher memory loss suffered by too many United fans, some of whom have contacted me to laugh at Lucas while, without irony, singing the praises of Fletcher – their own boo-boy from a few years back, after more than 100 games for United at the time.

“I don't think DF [Darren Fletcher] is as appalling as many [United fans] on this site but he is a million miles off solving our midfield problems.” Sparky, Salford

“I suggest that fan's booing and players' unhappiness at the tactics caused a needed change in approach and success. Don't forget the comments from Carlos [Quiroz] & Ferguson calling us 'idiots' and 'go support Chelsea' when questioned about poor form and disgraceful CL performances.”
steve, Glossop

“you must have been on the waccy baccy give him a chance he has played over 110 games in first team. this guy is not premiership class let alone good enough for united. do yourself a favour rerun the burton game he was played off the pitch by a conference player.”
bobbydazzler, lowton, 27/04/2006


"Fletcher is Not a good player.

While watching the Reading game last night I just kept hanging my head in shame at all the mistakes that he constantly does. He runs around the pitch like a headless chicken.

It was not just in that match, he is very consistant at sucking!!

If you notice, Scholes tries his best not pass to him cause he knows how bad he is, ha.

His pass rate accuracy was about 20%
Gave the ball away about 75%

[PT: great maths!]

IMO Alan Smith is a much better player, he can score, movement, pass (fair at the moment he has been injured but as soon as he is match fit he should replace Fletcher without a doubt).

Fletcher is a waste of my viewing time, the sooner we get a midfielder in the summer (Hargreaves, Adu) the more he'll become down the picking order."

The best reason to believe in under-performing players and the supposed faults with a squad can be seen from this blog from 2006 by the Guardian’s Rob Smyth, a big United fan, as he sounded the death knell for Ferguson and his team.

“After three seasons of papering over the cracks, it seems most United fans are awaiting the moment that the fault lines tracing a veiny path across Old Trafford are exposed. Almost everything about the club reeks of disarray. Owned by the Glazers, who push buttons from a remote hideaway like Dr Evil; run by a manager who shreds his legacy at every turn; almost exclusively represented by the inadequate (Darren Fletcher and Kieran Richardson) and the odious (Rio Ferdinand); unable to close a deal for West Brom's reserve keeper, never mind the new Roy Keane. The signing of Michael Carrick, a Pirlo when a Gattuso was needed, is a band aid for a bullet wound, and a ludicrously expensive one at that … 

Damien Duff was allowed to slip into the arms of Newcastle for less than United paid for Patrice Evra. You couldn't make it up. You don't have to.”

Of course, as a United fan he’s now having the last laugh, despite one of the most ill-conceived pieces of all time, in which almost every statement has since been proved wrong.

But it shows just how things change. (I’ve got plenty wrong myself in the past; it’s impossible not to. I've also written some shite I'd rather I hadn't. But I try to avoid blanket condemnations of players and managers; I try to keep an open mind.)

Fletcher is no longer the whipping boy, but “embodies their spirit” and is now generally loved; Ferdinand has changed the minds of the doubters; Carrick is now being touted as a candidate for Player of the Year; and Evra, written off by Smyth, is now seem as the perfect modern full-back.

“Papering over the cracks” is a phrase some Liverpool fans have been muttering about their own team of late.

It’s so easy to see such problems, when a work is not complete; things being constructed are rarely perfect and fault-free. They can look messy at times.

Remember, United clicked into gear almost immediately after that piece appeared, when, for a few years, it look
ed like United were getting further away. Smyth even feared they’d finish as low as 5th in 2006/07.

Again, none of this means that Lucas will definitely turn into a big success, or that Liverpool will win the league in the next few years. Too many vagaries exist.

But no player is ever set in stone as “rubbish”. Even the most criticised can turn it around, and if you want to know why Benítez persists with Lucas, it’s surely because, as a manager who’s won La Liga titles and the Champions League, he knows this only too well. – support my writing by buying my books. Compendium available only from my website, Dynasty and other books from Amazon.

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