Lucas Leiva targets Champions League return for Liverpool

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva is optimistic about the future after signing a new long-term contract with the club.

Speculation had started to grow about the Brazil international, who had just over a year to run on his previous deal, but the 24-year-old had no intention of leaving Anfield.

And having seen new owners, a new manager and two new record signings arrive in the last six months Lucas believes the club can start to look forward to regaining their place among Europe's elite.

"Everyone wants to be in the Champions League again and to win titles," he said.

"That is what Liverpool is about. The way everything is going I think it will be a very good next few seasons.

"We have some new players who have come here and that shows we are moving in the right direction.

"I am pleased with the way Liverpool tried to keep me and now I want to keep doing my best for them.

"For me it was an easy decision because I know how big Liverpool are and I can see Liverpool are committed to me and are planning for a future with me.

"I don't think people thought I could stay here for so long, but now I want to just keep on improving."

Lucas was a much-derided figure in the years following his arrival from Gremio in July 2007 for £5million.

However, he has flourished following the departures of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano in recent seasons and has earned a new contract.

Manager Kenny Dalglish praised the likeable Brazilian, who just over a week ago was celebrating the birth of his son Pedro, not only for his work on his pitch but his attitude off it.

"He is a smashing lad to have around the football club but he hasn't been signed for that, he has been signed because of what he does on the pitch," said the Scot.

"Certainly since I came in he has been a great asset to the team and has done tremendously well.

"We're delighted for him because he's a really honest, genuine fella and that's reflected in the way he plays.

"He's happy to be here and play for the club and he's getting everything that he deserves at the moment - including being a fixture in the Brazilian team - because of what he's done on the pitch."

Director of football Damien Comolli conducted the contract negotiations, revealing Lucas was a priority for him when he joined the club in November.

"One of the first things I did after I arrived was to look at the contract situation and to see where Lucas was at," said the Frenchman.

"I knew we had to do something quickly because we couldn't afford to lose him and didn't want to lose him.

"He is exactly what we want. He has the right mentality, quality and attitude."

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