Lucas Leiva has explained how the encouragement he’s received from new manager Brendan Rodgers has helped spur him on in his quest to regain full fitness.
The Brazil midfielder made his long-awaited return from a seven-month injury absence during Liverpool’s North America tour, figuring in the friendly clashes with Toronto, Roma and Tottenham.
While stateside, Rodgers spoke in glowing terms about Lucas, insisting the 25-year-old will be a ‘brilliant player’ for him during his time at the Anfield helm.
Lucas claims such words have provided him with a confidence he can return to the fold stronger than ever in 2012-13.
“On my first day back in Liverpool, he (Rodgers) spoke with me and said I was in his plans,” the Reds No.21 told Liverpoolfc.com.
“Those words helped me to relax a little bit more because he was a new manager coming in and everyone wants to impress. I was coming back from an injury and knew I wouldn’t be at the same level as the other players.
“It gave me the confidence to progress slowly and I am really happy to have his support from the beginning.”
Lucas continued: “When a manager says great things about you, it always gives you extra confidence and motivation – but I was already motivated enough. I am at a big club and very happy to play for this club.
“It’s just a question of time and being patient. He has been very important from the first day.”
Lucas’s return to action was one of the main plusses of Liverpool’s trip across the pond.
His substitute appearance against Toronto FC was the first time he had taken to the field since sustaining a knee injury in a Carling Cup tie at Chelsea in November of last year.
Lucas admits it’s been a long and testing road to recovery, but is steadfast in his belief he can comeback a better player.
“I am very happy to be back and be able to play football again,” he said. “I am enjoying every single minute of the (training) sessions and the games too.
“I am looking forward to having a great season. It was a long rehab and six or seven months out, so I was very excited to play again.
“Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done, but I am looking forward to getting my confidence back and being 100 per cent as soon as possible.
“To be honest, I’ve always respected – and tried to give everything for – my career in my sessions in terms of work. But of course, an injury like I had just makes you stronger and maybe makes you change the way you think about a few things.
“As I said, it was a long rehab, but I think it will be worth it in my career. I am really happy to be back.”
Having notched up 183 appearances for the club, Lucas was one of the more experienced players in the squad that travelled to North America as Rodgers handed a clutch of Liverpool youngsters a chance to shine.
One man who made the most of his opportunity was Jonjo Shelvey – and Lucas was among those impressed by the performance levels of the 20-year-old.
“Jonjo is a young player, but he’s been with us for two or three season so we have seen every day he has a lot of quality and I think he will be a very good player for this club,” he said.
“He has been very impressive in pre-season and I am looking forward to helping him when he wants me to. Hopefully he will be a great addition this season.
“My advice to him would be just to keep working hard and when he gets a chance, to try and take it.
“He has a little bit of experience already and played a few games last season, so I think he won’t have a problem when he has his chance – and I will try to help him on the pitch.”