Belfast Telegraph

Rai backing for Lucas

World Cup winner Rai has backed fellow Brazilian Lucas to win over his critics at Liverpool.

Midfielder Lucas has been a regular for the Reds since 2007 but often finds his ability questioned by fans and the media. However, Liverpool managers Rafael Benitez, Roy Hodgson and now Kenny Dalglish all have shown enough faith in the former Gremio man to give him regular starts, and 1994 World Cup captain Rai believes he will eventually convince others of his ability.

He told Press Association Sport: "Lucas was so young when he first got into the Brazilian national team after making such a good start with his club (Gremio) and in my opinion, his ability is at a level that justifies him being in the group of the national team. He has the quality to play in Liverpool's side."

He added: "I don't follow the Premier League extremely closely but I think he can change people's opinion of him because he's got the qualities to do it, in my opinion.

"Maybe the national team is the place to give him more confidence, and to then show it in Liverpool too."

Brazil are in the fledgling stage of a new era under coach Mano Menezes, who replaced Dunga after last year's World Cup failure.

Menezes' difficult challenge sees him trying to change both the Selecao's footballing philosophy and attitudes away from the pitch.

Rai, in Barcelona for this week's Global Sports Forum, is encouraged by the start the new boss has made.

He said: "He's experienced enough for this challenge. He's given me a good impression in his first six months, he has tried to restructure the team and to bring in some new, young players.

"It was very important to get the respect of the players because these days players are big stars and the leader, the coach, has to be strong with the group."

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