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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

Lucas Leiva retires

Former Lazio champion Lucas Leiva announced his retirement on March 17, 2023. In December 2022 following routine tests at Gremio where he was playing after the Lazio adventure, the doctors found he had a heart condition. In the last months there had been further tests, but there was nothing that could be done. Leiva was forced to stop at 36 years of age.


Official SS Lazio photo

"The day has come to say goodbye to the field. I confess that it came from greater forces. I can only be thankful for the career I built” he stated on social media. “I'm ending where I'd like, not the way I'd like. I had a lot of hope that it could reverse, but it was not the case. My health comes first", he said during a news conference.


On social media he thanked the clubs he played for: Gremio, Liverpool and Lazio. “Fate took me to one of the most incredible cities in the world: Rome. It is so fascinating and with the Lazio fans I was able to etch my name in the history of the club. SEMPRE FORZA LAZIO”.


Lucas Pezzini Leiva (known as Lucas or Lucas Leiva), was born on 9 January, 1987, in Dourados, state of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil.


He began his career at Gremio as a midfielder in 2005. He and Gremio won the Campeonato Gaucho in 2006 and 2007 and came 3rd in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A. He became the youngest player to win the prestigious “Bola de Ouro” (Golden Ball, an award given to the best player in the Brazilian league). He is in the good Company of players such as; Romario, Paulo Roberto Falcao, Kakà, Robinho, Zico, Careca and Carlos Tévez, to name just a few.


His performances in Brazil inevitably attracted the attention of major European clubs and it was Liverpool who managed to get the deal done and Leiva signed for the Reds on 13 May 2007, for about 5 million pounds.


He scored his first goal for Liverpool on 27 January, 2008, in the FA Cup but was not the goal scoring midfielder some fans were expecting. He was not immediately popular and struggled in his early months at Anfield and had to be defended publicly by manager Rafa Benitez. Slowly but surely however Leiva won over the sceptics and established himself as an excellent holding midfielder. In 2011 he suffered a serious injury but bounced back and was eventually accepted. In 2012 he even won the Liverpool Player of the Year Award and in 2013 was given a new long-term deal with the club. Lucas Leiva played for Liverpool for 10 years making 346 official appearances. Despite a few ups and downs Leiva had a successful decade on Merseyside although only winning one trophy, the League Cup in 2012 (on penalties against Cardiff City).


In the summer of 2017 Leiva joined Lazio for €5 million. He was, after all, born the same day Lazio was founded (9 January) and had Italian ancestry, so maybe it was destiny. He made a dream debut in the Super Coppa Italiana in a 3-2 last gasp victory over Juventus. Leiva soon established himself as an indispensable part of Lazio's midfield and in his first season played 50 games and was named Club Player of the Year.


Lazio could hardly believe the calibre of the player they had bought from England at such a low fee. He would continue to be the driving force in Lazio's midfield for five seasons and soon became one of the more popular players. He was what Lazio fans called “una garanzia” (a guarantee of reliability). He was not the typical technical, flamboyant Brazilian midfielder but his number 6 jersey was everywhere on the field with solid tackling, excellent timing, positioning and distribution. The fact he had played for Liverpool (also historically popular with Lazio fans) brought him automatic respect but he proved to be everything Lazio had hoped for and more. He played 198 games for Lazio (155 in Serie A, 12 in Coppa Italia, 5 in Champions League, 24 in Europa League and 2 Super Coppa finals) and scored 4 goals (2 in Serie A and 2 in Europa League). In Rome he won 2 Italian Super Coppas (2017, 2019 both against Juventus) and 1 Coppa Italia (2019 against Atalanta). He was twice voted Player of the Season (2018, 2019). He came close to winning the “Scudetto'' in 2020 before Lazio's dream was shattered by the Covid 19 events. In his last year he struggled with a few niggling injuries and the general feeling was he had given all he had to give in Rome, so in the summer of 2022 he returned to the club of his youth Gremio and his homeland of Brazil.


At International level he earned 24 caps for the 'Verdeoro' and won an Olympic bronze medal at Beijing 2008.


In his last year at Gremio he was able to play 18 games, with three goals, before having to stop due to heart problems.


Leiva is primarily a defensive midfielder although he was sometimes also used as a central defender. A phenomenal tackler and physically tough he will consistently break up the opposition possession and as Italians say “cucire” ( sew/ link ) between defensive and attacking play.


At Lazio he can be considered a huge success. His name may not have been sung to the heavens like Ciro Immobile or Milinkovic-Savic but he gained immense respect with the fans. Some pundits claim that, seeing what Lazio paid for him and what he gave back in return, Leiva can be considered one of Lazio's best buys ever.

On a 2022 May evening against Verona, in front of a capacity crowd in the Stadio Olimpico, Leiva received the heartfelt, warm, tearful farewell he deserved when he played his last ever game for Lazio.


“Grazie” Lucas.


Lazio Career

Season

Total games (goals)

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Champions League

Europa League

Super Coppa

2017-18

50 (4)

36 (2)

4

-

9 (2)

1

2018-19

36

27

5

-

4

-

2019-20

30

25

1

-

3

1

2020-21

37

32

-

5

-

-

2021-22

45

35

2

-

8

Total

198 (4)

155

12

5

24

2


Sources


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