By Sam Mathius
I always enjoyed history classes. Although I may not remember every single date, coronation or revolution discussed in the various courses I’ve taken over the years, one idea has stuck with me. It’s a simple concept that a high school history teacher beat into his students’ heads: timing is the biggest factor in greatness.
Had Napoleon not become proficient as a military general just as the French constitutional government fell apart, Mr. Bonaparte’s legacy may have been a little different. Had Eisenhower not delayed the D-Day invasion due to poor weather, the course of history could have followed a more complicated path.
There are factors and happenings almost serendipitously placed that drive men and women to accomplish great things.
Although obviously more important than the French Revolution and D-Day in the grand scheme of things, next summer’s World Cup could prove to be aptly timed for Liverpool fans.
Our midfield duo of Lucas Leiva and Philippe Coutinho may just be spurred on by the chance to put on that famous yellow shirt in Brazil next summer. For the former it’s a case of proving the doubters wrong and re-establishing himself as a regular force from Brazil and Liverpool. For the latter, it’s all about keeping the momentum from last season going.
Lucas’ roller coaster career
To put it mildly, Lucas’ career at Liverpool has been one of love and hate. After making the £5 million pound move from Gremio as a 20-year-old starlet in 2007, the Anfield faithful expected a decent on-field display from the holding player. Instead, they were gifted with only rash challenges, poor passes and a player who always seemed a step or two from where he should have been. It was frustrating to say the least and the lack of love did little to build confidence in the young Brazilian.
Fast forward several years to 2011 and a 100+ league appearances for the club, Lucas was suddenly one of, if not the best midfielder in the team. His poor positioning was a thing of the past, always in the right spot to nick a ball away or make a well-timed tackle. He was mature. He was culture. He got badly injured. It was an awful stroke of luck for a player who had fought hard to carve a role for himself in one of football’s most demanding positions.
After a year of rehabing from the ACL injury, fans were happy to see the soft-spoken tackler back on the pitch early last season. However, it may have been too soon, as Lucas’ form failed to meet the standard he set in 2010 and 2011, as he visibly struggled to maintain his fitness level for an entire campaign.
Fortunately for Liverpool fans, he was left out of the Brazilian squad for this summer’s Confederations Cup, allowing Lucas to get the much needed rest and break from football he needed. However, there may be an even more important benefit to his recent absence from the national side: He had to watch his countrymen dominate and lift a trophy at home. The destructive display shown by A Selecao against world champions Spain was a dramatic play any Brazilian footballer would have loved to have a role in. Luckily, Lucas has a chance to do one better and break into the side for next summer’s World Cup if he proves his worth at Anfield this season.
His career has been one of doubts and challenges supremely written off and answered. There are those players that keep things bottled up, taking everything in stride until they get onto the pitch. Lucas seems to be one of those professionals, never giving into questions about his ability or debilitating injuries. Hopefully the quiet storm that brews beneath the soft exterior will benefit Liverpool and Brazil in the next year.
To say that Philippe Coutinho put in some surprising performances in the second half of last season is an understatement. The 20-year-old showed class beyond his years, toying with defenders, positioning them just where he wanted them to be so he could slip a sublime pass to the feet of a sprinting Luis Suarez or Daniel Sturridge.
It was a joy for Liverpool fans to behold, as the young Inter man proved to be a shrewd purchase. However, if doesn’t seem as if anyone not wearing red-tinted glasses took note.
Even with the new season days away, there has been little talk outside of Liverpuldlian circles about the boy from Brazil. It’s unlikely that it irks the man. He seems to be cut from a similar mold as Lucas, quiet, yet confident and committed.
And like our central midfield man, Coutinho too has an outside chance at making Brazil’s 23-man roster next summer. It may be a slim one, but a chance none the less.
As outsiders, it’s difficult to tell just what makes a player tick, what motivates him to do well. However, if there is one thing that is universal and certain in the world of football it’s that Brazilians love the game. A chance to simply sit on the bench in front of home fans at the Maracana next summer might just be the catalyst Lucas and Coutinho need to have extraordinary campaigns for Liverpool.
So here is to a nice little combo of yellow samba style and red working class grit. It could be a color palette as aesthetically pleasing as any in England this season.