November 26, 2008 |

Morientes, Cisse, Baros. The list of ex-Liverpool players who have promise but never quite achieve their full potential is long and illustrious. Here’s one more for it – Lucas Leiva.

It’s not that Lucas doesn’t have some pedigree. The former Gremio man garnered the Bola de Ouro (Brazilian Footballer of the year) in 2006. But he just isn’t of the Liverpool pedigree.

Stated Plainly, Lucas Leiva should not be wearing a Liverpool Football Club jersey. He shouldn’t even have access to a Liverpool Football Club reserve jersey. Yet he played the entire 90 minutes and change on Saturday in a dismal draw at home against Fulham as the likes of Xabi Alonso gazed on from the sideline for over an hour.

The highlight of Lucas’ performance was a 20-yard strike that, had it not struck a defender and gone out for a corner, might actually have hit the flag in the same corner.

This phenomenon is not unusual. Darren Fletcher’s inclusion in many of SAF’s star-studded line-ups makes you wonder whether at the family table over the holidays he isn’t asking Uncle Sir Alex to hand him the stuffing.

One can appreciate managers sticking with their youngsters to try and instill a sense of confidence in them. But in Rafa’s case, why Lucas? He ranks so far behind many talented role players that are overlooked at his expense. Ryan Babel has started one game this season. He sits and watches Liverpool’s $20 million man, Robbie Keane, as he whiffs from 3 yards or puts it into a goalie’s chest in a one on one.

And there are plenty of other local lads, Jack Hobbs most notably, that can’t or won’t crack the nod. It is even more bewildering in these times when a league-mandated emphasis is placed on developing, and utilizing, the indigenous population to try and stem the tide of foreign-born youngsters taking first team jobs.

Yes, Liverpool has a cornucopia of world-class defenders for Hobbs to outshine for his chance, but is it any less different in the midfield, the same midfield that Lucas is slotted into on an alarmingly regular basis?

The argument cannot even be made that it is the Houllier Liverpool midfield which is woefully lacking in depth or that injuries dictate the line up. Even with Steven Gerrard’s injury, the roll of adequate substitutes is lengthy and stout.

But perhaps the most infuriating aspect of Lucas’ name on a starting squad sheet is that for the first time in 18 years Liverpool have a genuine title hope and Rafa is still piddling about with his lineup during league games because he has deemed Fulham a weaker club all this despite he insists he is not rotating his players.

There are no weaker clubs in the Premiership. Not where Liverpool is concerned. Man U and Chelsea don’t pose the threat, it’s the Stokes and Hulls that offer the stiffest challenges.

So again, why Lucas, and why compound it further by leaving him on the pitch when he is so obviously not the man for the job? It boggles the mind and befuddles the senses. It also dulls the experience and infuriates me.

With today’s matchup against Marseilles in the Champions League, one wonders if Lucas will feature again. The pressure is, if it is possible in the pressure cooker of European competition, essentially off Liverpool who have 8 points and sit atop the Group with Atletico Madrid. Liverpool look like they are on their way to the round of 16 and if ever Rafa was going to give Lucas yet another chance to shine, today would be the day.