Rafael Benitez has turned his attentions to Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva, having failed to negotiate a satisfactory deal for Manchester United star Marouane Fellaini.
According to the Daily Express the Napoli boss remains keen on acquiring a physical central midfielder, but has been put off of Fellaini by the fact that Louis van Gaal is demanding a £4million loan fee for his services. As such it’s thought he’s now turned his attentions to a former player of his in Lucas, and could use his old relationship with the player to convince him to depart Anfield.
The Brazilian had an injury hampered 2013/14 season which moved him somewhat down the pecking order at Liverpool, and he’ll now have to fight off competition from Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard in order to get game-time. A knock-on effect of Brendan Rodgers’ plethora of options in the middle of the park has meant that Lucas has seen himself widely tipped to move away from the club this summer, with interest also coming from Inter Milan.
However it’s surely a reunion with Benitez, and the opportunity to play Champions League football - providing they make it past the qualifying stage - which he would fancy most. The 27-year-old was signed by the Spaniard in 2007 from Brazilian outfit Gremio, and became lynchpin in the Reds setup until Benitez left in 2010.
If anything it’s more of a surprise that the ex-Liverpool coach preferred a move for Fellaini, with the United man bound to cost more only a season after signing on the dotted line at Old Trafford. However now, regardless of how annoyed Benitez may be at the deal for the big Belgian having collapsed, he will approach negotiations with Lucas safe in the knowledge that he’ll be getting an experienced ball-winner if all goes to plan.
One would assume that Rodgers would be open to the idea of doing business, particularly given his recent influx of midfielders. Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic have been brought in alongside the aforementioned Can and, though they don’t occupy the same positions as Lucas does, their presence means added pressure on the wage bill, as well as less opportunities to play Gerrard and Henderson in advanced roles.
It’s true that the Reds need to keep numbers at a healthy level given the added fixtures they’ll be forced to play through their participation in Europe, but even so Rodgers needs to be careful that they’re aren’t too many players in his squad who won’t be getting regular game-time. His squad harmony, which has been practically perfect to date, could depend on it.