Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher believes Lucas Leiva is Jurgen Klopp's key player despite Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino receiving the highest praise following the impressive 4-1 win at Manchester City on 21 November. Lucas may have started the campaign out of ex-manager Brendan Rodgers' squad but the former centre-back says the Brazilian midfielder is enjoying a new lease of life at Anfield.
Reports on the final day of the summer transfer window linked Lucas with a move to Besiktas after he failed to feature in the first two Premier League games of the campaign, against Stoke City and Bournemouth. The midfielder confirmed in September that he was "very close" to leaving Anfield in the summer but eventually opted to stay at Liverpool.
The 28-year-old midfielder seized the opportunity to regain his place in the line-up after captain Jordan Henderson was out due to injury earlier in the campaign and Carragher believes that since Klopp's appointment, Lucas's importance to the team has increased.
"This is a player who at the start of the season wasn't in the [match-day squad of] 18 but if you look at his role now for Liverpool in terms of how many tackles he wins, he's always at the top of that list," Carragher said to Sky Sports after stats revealed the Brazilian is only second to Toulouse's Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akprowho in making more tackles in Europe this season.
"He's played two less games too so that shows how vital he is and how much Klopp coming in has maybe improved those stats because he's constantly going into challenges, pressing people and doing things that you wouldn't expect from a normal holding midfield player.
"He is the holding midfield player and the first reaction of the holding midfield player would normally be looking over his shoulder thinking, 'Where's the No 10?. With Jurgen Klopp it seems that if you can close someone down then don't worry what's behind you, just go. Lucas's first thought was to go after Yaya Toure and, listen, it worked. He went off at half-time and they ran all over him.
"Normally you would hold and say, 'Come to me'. But the idea with Klopp is to press and to be aggressive. It is so difficult to deal with that pressure and you're going to have to do so well to play around Liverpool."