There had been rumors of Liverpool signing Brazilian midfielder Lucas over the past couple of days, and I had planned on ignoring it because it was just that, rumors, but it’s been confirmed by Benitez, and I’m certainly surprised to see it on the official site so quickly. That in and of itself says how much the club think of the signing.
Admittedly, I know very little about the player. Being captain of Brazil’s under-20s, and named the best player in the Brazilian league last season, I had heard of him, but that’s about it. But having been privy to all the speculation over the week, and the news of the last day or so, I’m now aware he’s always classed as a defensive holding midfielder. And this cannot bode well for Alonso, Sissoko, or Mascherano.
This isn’t the same situation as Paletta, Insua, or Leto, who will also be joining over the summer. Lucas is a fairly established player coming over from South America. He’s captain of the under-20 side, has recently been called up to the full national squad, and is a first team regular at Gremio, the club where Ronaldinho got his start. And the transfer fee’s rumored to have been something like 10 million Euros, or £4.5m, which is not a small sum. It’s actually just about what the club paid for Sissoko.
And on face value, it appears Sissoko will be the one leaving, with the article on the official side talking up similar qualities to those of Momo. And despite what Sissoko has done for Liverpool, despite the fact Benitez brought him here, and despite his youth, we know Rafa is ruthless enough to cut his losses if he so chooses.
But I still irrationally fear the loss of Xabi. There’s been little new news on the contract front, while we’ve still been hearing tabloid talk over those of Gerrard, Carragher, and Reina. And to tell the truth, Alonso has looked disillusioned at times this season. I firmly believe Xabi was one of the first names on the team sheet in Rafa’s first two seasons. I don’t know if that’s the case anymore. He is a classy, classy player, and I’d be gutted to see him go, but I can’t shake the feeling he will, if not this summer, then after next season.
Although, there is always the chance that Lucas will be a replacement for Mascherano if Benitez believes he’ll be unable to sign him on a new contract at the end of next season. His status is still in doubt, and there hasn’t been any concrete news on what the fee will be to sign him permanently in 2008.
So many possibilities. Just the way Rafa likes it. But 5 central midfielders is still at least one too many. And even though we’re still over a week away from Athens, I’m afraid I’m beginning to get caught up in the summer transfer speculation.
May 23rd needs to get here soon.
Update: So I may have been hasty in proclaiming him a defensive midfielder. I apologize, transfer gossip does this to me. From videos, more info coming out, and Benitez himself, Lucas looks to be groomed to be a box-to-box midfielder. Supposedly, he even considers Gerrard an idol. I guess the old chestnut of 'I've always rooted for Liverpool' can't be trotted out in this situation.
To supplement this nonsense, here's a couple of videos. One is a compilation of Lucas, the other is the interview done with Rafa yesterday in regards to the player.
• Rafa interview
And I want to make one other thing clear. Momo could be shipped out. Zenden could leave when his contract's up. Mascherano could ultimately be unaffordable. But when I say I fear Xabi leaving, I certainly don't believe the club will willingly sell him. If Xabi goes, it'll be of his own volition.