Football: Golden Ball by Lucas Is Ready to Glitter on the Big Stage at Anfield; Liverpool FC Feature: Star Arriving with Award Won by Kaka, Tevez and Romario the Story of New Signing Lucas Leiva

Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England), June 16, 2007 | Go to article overview

Football: Golden Ball by Lucas Is Ready to Glitter on the Big Stage at Anfield; Liverpool FC Feature: Star Arriving with Award Won by Kaka, Tevez and Romario the Story of New Signing Lucas Leiva


Byline: JAMES PENCE

UCAS LEIVA'S luggage is in danger of being lighter than he hoped when he arrives on Merseyside next month.

The highly-rated Brazilian midfielder will make the move from Gremio to An-field this summer in a deal believed to be worth around pounds 6million.

The 20-year-old was desperate to sign off in style in his homeland by helping his club win the Copa Libertadores - the South American equivalent of the Champions League.

"I wish to travel to England taking in my suitcase the Copa Libertadores title," he told Brazilian reporters recently.

"I am very happy and thankful that I have been given the chance to remain at Gremio until the end of the Copa Libertadores because playing in this competition and having the chance to win it is something that I have been waiting for since I was a child."

But after this week's first leg of the showpiece final Lucas' hopes of landing Gremio's third South American crown and their first since 1995 lie in tatters.

Boca Juniors, inspired by former Argentina international Juan Riquelme, who is on loan from Villarreal, inflicted a 3-0 defeat in Buenos Aires.

Gremio will need a miracle in Wednesday's second leg in Brazil, but with Lucas on form anything is possible.

The youngster rose through the youth ranks at Gremio and made his first team debut in 2005, helping the club win promotion back to the top flight of Brazilian football.

Last year he was instrumental in Gremio clinching the Grande do Sul state championship for the first time since 2001 and finishing third in the national championship, earning qualification for the Copa Libertadores.

Lucas' efforts were rewarded when he became the youngest ever recipient of the prestigious Golden Ball, awarded by Brazilian sports magazine Placar to the domestic championship's top player.

It's an honour won in recent years by Carlos Tevez, Robinho, Alex, Kaka and Romario.

His performances attracted the attention of Brazil boss Dunga and last October he was called up into the senior squad for the first time but has yet to win his first cap. Rafa Benitez made his move for the youngster after having him watched at the South American Youth Championships in January Lucas was skipper of Brazil Under-20s and bagged four goals as he led his side to glory. He is expected to captain the team again at the FIFA Un-der-20 World Cup, which start in Canada on June 30, before linking up with his new team-mates at Melwood.

"He is a fantastic player for the present and the future," Benitez said.

"He can be a holding midfielder but he likes to go box to box. He scores goals and is a complete player. Lucas will be ready to join the first-team squad from next season." A run of sparkling performances from the nephew of former Brazilian international Leivinha also led to interest from a host of top Spanish and Italian clubs but he opted for the five times European Champions.

"I really didn't expect to leave Brazil so soon but what I have been offered and the team from which it came made it impossible to say no," Lucas said.

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