Lucas Leiva. That name is a throwback, isn’t it?
The Brazilian played for Liverpool for a decade, starting from 2007 to 2017, and was known for his hard tackling and no-nonsense defending.
In fact, his style and manner of play meant he has the second most tackles in Premier League history, only behind Gareth Barry.
Signed for a mere £5 million from Gremio, a club playing in Brazil’s first division, the defensive midfielder went on to record the third-highest number of appearances for a Brazilian in the PL.
He also became the Player of the Year for his side in the 2010-2011 season. He was so focused on protecting the goal that he rarely threatened the opposition, scoring only once in his 247 PL outings.
Safe to say, he was a cult hero for the Kop.
In 2017, the 5 ft 10in midfielder moved on to Lazio for the same money as his prior move to England. His 5 years in Italy were more rewarding that his decade in Merseyside. With him, Lazio won the Coppa Italia in 2018-19, and the Supercoppa Italiana in 2017 and 2019.
Lucas himself won the Lazio Player of the Season accolade for two consecutive years after arriving at the club.
Goals, however, were still at a premium for the player, who only scored 4 times in 198 appearances for Le Aquile.
Approaching the yesteryears of his career, Leiva decided to go back to the club where he started on a one-year contract.
Gremio had a bad 2021 season and were relegated to the second tier of Brazilian football leagues. This had happened only for the third time in the club’s history and the previous two instances had seen Gremio bounce back straight in the next season.
Renato Portaluppi, their manager, must have hoped that a returning hero would be all the confidence and impetus that the players need to repeat history.
A hero? Yes, a hero.
17 years ago, Leiva played for Gremio in a match that can loosely be called one of the craziest professional encounters. The game saw five red cards, with four of them going to Lucas’ team. The match was dubbed the ‘Batalha dos Aflitos’ (The Battle of the Afflicted).
Gremio and Nautico were involved in the Serie B game, both playing for promotion to the top tier. Lucas, a second-half substitute, was one of the seven players left for the away team, who won 1-0 and secured Serie A football for next season.
Here are the highlights of the crazy game.
Now, almost two decades later, Leiva returned to find his team in Serie B again.
And they sealed promotion the same way they did all those years ago, with a win against Nautico. It was less crazy this time on.
The highlight of the match came when Lucas Leiva scored a goal, the second of the match.
The man has a deep connection with the club and it was fitting, poetic even, to see him score the goal that sends this club to the top tier again.
Leiva himself took to social media to soak in the occasion and thank the club.
Translation: First of all I want to thank Grêmio for giving me the opportunity to live a unique moment in the club’s history. I was able to help go up twice and wanted the fate to be in the Aflitos. A movie flashed through my head when my kick made it two to zero.
Leiva has made 15 appearances since returning and has scored thrice this season.
He may not be the greatest goal scorer, but he did score this one at the greatest possible time.