Lucas Leiva on replacing Steven Gerrard, playing with Luis Suarez, and future plans

Former Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva, has yet to decide on his next career move after retiring in March when doctors found a scar on his heart.

The scarring meant that regular, high-intensity sporting activity would pose a health risk.

The Brazilian said he can lead a normal life and even go to the gym, but he must not overexert himself.

“I cannot play professional football any more, but I can support the club. It was a sad decision, but I am enjoying retirement and being an ambassador for Liverpool,” said the 36-year-old, who also played for Lazio in Italy, and boyhood club, Gremio.

“Now, I can travel and meet the amazing Liverpool fans around the world, especially in Asia and Malaysia.”

Asked if he was considering moving into management like former teammates Steven Gerrard and Xavi Alonso, Lucas – like most Brazilians, is known by one name – said he has yet to decide.

“Being a manager is a difficult job. Before I embark on that journey, I must ensure I am well-prepared and ready for the role,” Lucas said during a recent meet-and-greet session with KL Kopites, the Official Liverpool Supporters Club in Malaysia.

“For now, I will take it easy, enjoy retirement, be an ambassador for Liverpool and spend time with my children.”

Recalling his 10-year career at the club, Lucas said it was memorable, and having the opportunity to train alongside Gerrard, Alonso, and Javier Mascherano, made him a better player.

Lucas became a cult favourite for his never-say-die attitude and willingness to play anywhere on the pitch. In his 346 appearances, he played as a box-to-box midfielder, a holding midfielder, and centreback.

“At Liverpool, you must be ready to play anywhere. Of course, I have my favourite position, but it was an honour to wear the jersey. It did not matter where I played,” said Lucas, who won 24 caps for the Brazilian national team.

“It is similar to Trent (Alexander-Arnold). He is a world-class defender but is also brilliant in midfield, and now he is playing the inverted fullback role where he plays in both positions.

“Like I said, when you are at Liverpool, it is an honour to play.”

Among his top three memories as a Liverpool player was a match-of-the-match performance against Manchester City in November, which, unfortunately, came just before a knee injury that ruled him out for a year.

The next was the 4-1 thrashing of Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2009 and making his English Premier League debut in 2007 by replacing Gerrard in a Merseyside derby.

“Gerrard could not believe it when his number came up,” laughed Lucas. “It was an unbelievable feeling coming on for him.

“It could have been a dream start as I nearly scored, too. In the end, we won 2-1, thanks to a Dirk Kuyt penalty.”

During his time at Liverpool, Lucas had the opportunity to share the pitch with two deadly strikers – Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez.

So, who was the better player?

“Suarez was better, especially in the 2013-14 season (31 goals and 17 assists in only 33 games) as Liverpool came close to winning the title.

“Both were unstoppable in their day, but Suarez is now my neighbour, so I’d better choose him,” said Lucas with a huge laugh.

Lucas also shared his thoughts on:

His best five-a-side team: Pepe Reina in goal, Daniel Agger in defence, Alonso and Gerrard in midfield, and Suarez in attack. Without a keeper, I would choose Bobby (Roberto Firmino). He can play in midfield or attack. I would win many trophies with this team.

The best Brazilian to play for Liverpool: “All of them! If I had to choose, it would be (Philippe) Coutinho, Bobby and Alisson (Becker). I cannot pick only one.

The owners (Fenway Sports Group): When I arrived, it was a difficult time for the club. I played under five managers in 10 years. Jurgen Klopp was the last, and he has been there for eight years.

Since FSG took over, Liverpool has won the league, the Champions League, and the Club World Cup. They have upgraded the stadium and still spend big. Liverpool is in a much better place now than when I arrived.

His relationship with Rafael Benitez: He was very patient with me. It took me time to adjust to England. I still keep in touch with him.

On Jurgen Klopp: It is difficult to work with 25 players, and convince them to follow your ideas. That is why he is so good. Sometimes Klopp is a father, sometimes a friend, other times, he can be your best friend, but then, there are times he is the manager. He knows when to approach a player and keeps the energy up.

On his ‘Unlucky’ meme: It was not planned. We were doing a promo for the club. Jordan (Henderson), in disguise, was trying to sell a shirt to a fan. He is a fantastic player but a lousy salesman. He was giving the shirt away, but the fan did not buy it. I uttered the word “Unlucky”, and it became a meme.

Meanwhile, the English Premier League resumes on Saturday with Liverpool hosting Everton in the early kickoff.

FIXTURES (Malaysian time)

Liverpool vs Everton (7.30pm)
Brentford vs Burnley (10pm)
Bournemouth vs Wolves (10pm)
Nottingham Forest vs Luton (10pm)
Manchester City vs Brighton (10pm)
Newcastle vs Crystal Palace (10pm)

Chelsea vs Arsenal (12.30am)
Sheffield United vs Manchester United (3am)
Aston Villa vs West Ham (11.30pm)

Tottenham vs Fulham (3am)