Dirk Kuyt hails Lucas Leiva improvement

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt has hailed the strength of character of midfielder Lucas Leiva after the Brazilian's emergence from a difficult spell at Anfield.

The 23-year-old was given a hard time by fans in his first three seasons after arriving from Gremio in a £6million transfer.

However, towards the end of last campaign and the start of this Lucas has been one of the club's best players, and Kuyt believes he is now becoming a great asset.

"Lucas has done really well recently and is developing into a great player," Kuyt said.

"He waited for his chances to come along and stayed focused on what he had to do.

"He has shown a lot of character to come through that and I'm sure all the experiences he's had so far have made him stronger, not only as a footballer but as a person as well.

"There isn't a player in the world who doesn't have good and bad times.

"You just have to make the best of it. When things aren't going the way you want you just have to keep working and Lucas has done that.

"In the last couple of weeks he has really clicked with Raul Meireles; with Lucas as the holding midfielder and Raul as the passing player it has worked really well.

"That's been a big plus for us. Lucas has also got himself into the Brazil team and deserves a lot of credit."

Yesterday, manager Roy Hodgson revealed the club were keen to extend the Brazil international's contract, which still has 18 months to run.

However, he admits the form of Lucas and Meireles has given him a problem when captain Steven Gerrard returns from his hamstring injury, which is expected to be next weekend at Fulham.

"It will be a nice headache, won't it?" he admitted.

"There are enough problems as a football manager without worrying too much about what's going to happen in the future.

"We'll let the future take care of itself. Steven is not fit for this weekend, so that makes the decision easy for me.

"Maybe against Fulham I'll have a very hard decision to make, but I'll welcome that because if we're going to become a good team we're going to need plenty of those hard decisions.

"It will prove we've got a lot of good quality players and we aren't totally dependant on the odd one or two, which is also important for the team to know that."

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