Lucas Leiva
Chelsea's Didier Drogba (L) challenges Liverpool's Lucas Leiva during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London February 6, 2011. REUTERS

John Aldridge has praised Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva following his outstanding individual performance against Roberto Mancini's side on Sunday.

The former Liverpool striker admits he never thought Leiva "would make it at Anfield" but the Brazilian's increasingly influential role over the last 12-months, has clearly proved him wrong.

Leiva was man-of-the-match during Liverpool's lively 1-1 draw with Premier League leaders Manchester City at the weekend, and was also superb against Chelsea the previous week. The 24-year-old was Liverpool fans' Player of the Year last season capping a remarkable turnaround in his fledgling Anfield career.

The Brazilian international was initially a figure of derision at Liverpool following a spate of underwhelming and ponderous performances for the club, but he has since emerged as one their most consistent and called upon individuals.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Aldridge said: ""Lucas had his best game in a Liverpool shirt against Man City - the Brazilian was phenomenal. I never thought he would make it at Anfield but he has proved me wrong and I'm delighted about that.

"In his first season with us he was awful and I didn't even see shades of a player. But since then he has blossomed. Rafa Benitez bought him and showed a lot of faith in him. Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish kept playing him.

"Lucas has rolled his sleeves up and silenced his critics. In the absence of Steven Gerrard, he has raised his game to help make up for the loss of the skipper.

"Defensively, he was excellent on Sunday. He was up against one of the best midfielders in the country in Yaya Toure but his quality shone through."

Leiva was signed in July 2007 from Gremio and has established himself as a Brazilian international. He has won 20 caps to date.