Current Reds midfielder Lucas Leiva recently met former Liverpool star Jan Molby for a relaxed chat about football and their mutual experiences at Anfield. Here is their discussion - which was filmed for LFC TV's 'Then and Now' show - in full.
Molby: So Lucas, I've been here for nearly 30 years now and I obviously like the place, what did you think of Liverpool when you first came?
Lucas: To be honest, when I came here, the only thing I knew about the city was that it was the Beatles' city. So at the beginning it was quite different to where I used to live in Brazil. But after a few years, I got to know people more and see how good they are and how they want to make you feel comfortable. That's probably the reason why you have stayed here for over 30 years?
Molby: I think it's one of those places that is made by the people, isn't it? People in Liverpool are good people, who want to make you feel welcome.
Lucas: They are so warm and they want to make sure that you feel comfortable at home.
Molby: But surely there was nothing in Liverpool that made you feel at home when you first came, was there? Everything must have been different...
Lucas: The beginning was very hard and I was not going out much because of the problems and the bad times that I had in the first two seasons [on the pitch]. But the respect has always been there; in the street people have always respected me. Perhaps not on the pitch so much at first. It was a bad start. I've managed to turn things around. My boy was born here and so I'm very happy.
Molby: I came from Denmark and everything was different; the way we trained, the way we lived, what we eat and the way people would drive on the wrong side of the road. I didn't have a problem with the language, though. I spoke English pretty well when I came. But in Liverpool they have a different language, don't they - they speak Scouse...
Lucas: Yes - especially when you talk to Carra.
Molby: Can you understand anything that he says?
Lucas: When he speaks with Stevie and a few of the lads - 'lads', you see, that's a Scouse term - I miss some things.
Molby: What about the English language in general?
Lucas: I was taught very basic English in school, which was not enough for me to come to Liverpool and start speaking. After speaking and learning it's become fine.
Molby: With everything that went on, and maybe the football wasn't going as well as you had hoped for, was the toughest thing not being able to understand what was going on?
Lucas: When I came we had a lot of Spanish people. The Portuguese and Spanish languages are quite similar, so I was able to understand them. But it was hard. In the dressing room, in training, everything was so difficult for me. I was very young coming over from Brazil to Liverpool, a massive club. I knew about the pressure but it was more than I thought and today I can see I was not ready. It was just a process. It was hard but I had to get on with it and be patient. The thing that I didn't understand much, on the pitch, was people talking to me, so maybe that was not a bad thing and I could cope a bit more.
Molby: Did you ever feel that the opportunity to come to Liverpool was too big to turn down?
Lucas: Yes, I was very happy in Brazil, I was playing very well. I had a few offers from teams in Russia and Italy, but I never felt that I was ready to go. When Liverpool came, I was not ready but I could not say no because of the history of the club and the players.
Molby: It's a strange choice, isn't it? English football for a young Brazilian?
Lucas: I don't think many Brazilian players make the move from Brazil to England. Rafael to Manchester United is one but he was young and he had time. Maybe Spain or Portugal is a good place for Brazilian players to adapt. But for me, to come here and to try to get into the team competing against Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano and Sissoko was very hard. I left Brazil in a really good situation and here I was sometimes not even on the bench and out of the squad. It was a difficult period for me but I think it was worth it. Today I realise how important it was for me to have that struggle because it taught me to work hard.
Molby: I recognise all of those things because I felt the same. There was an opportunity to join Liverpool and I had to take it. And then when it doesn't happen, it's tough. You had difficult times; I had difficult times - what kept you going?
Lucas: I think it was down to the way I am. I worry a lot and I worried about wanting to be successful at the club. Maybe if I didn't care about my career it would have been different. It could have been easy for me to say: "I want to go back to Brazil and play my football there." I had a lot of chances to leave the club through mutual consent. But I always felt that there was something saying to me that I still needed to prove something here. And that was what kept me going. What about you?
Molby: My problem when I came to England wasn't the living; it wasn't the training even though everything was completely different. I was confident that I could adjust and cope to that. But it was the football. I didn't settle well and the football was so different and the one thing that I never compromised on was the way that I played football. So I found it very difficult in my first year.
Lucas: I think when the football doesn't go well, the living style just gets worse and worse. Because the main thing is your football, so if you became happy with your football and with the club, then everything will become better and better. I had to change the way I played.
Molby: Do you think that was easier because you were younger when you came?
Lucas: Not really, I just think I had no option. In Brazil I was an attacking player who scored goals. But the way the Premier League is, with the pace and everything else, I was not able to do that. I might have had the potential to do this but I was not able to. I couldn't do it, so I just thought to myself: "You have to understand that the league is different, if you want to be successful, then you have to change." And the holding position was a position where I felt more comfortable.
Molby: So who made those decisions? You or the manager?
Lucas: Well, at that moment, it was Rafa. But it was not like Rafa saying: "You play as a holding midfielder because I think it's a better position for you." He just started to play me there in a few games and then I started to adapt and play well. In the game against Newcastle, when we won 5-1, I started the game in the holding position and finished up playing as a right winger. So it was more of a case of adapting to the style of football, the pace and physicality. I got better as well. I went to the gym because it was important for me to adapt to the way I wanted to play.
Molby: So do you think there was one game that convinced you that you could play in the Premier League or was it a slow, gradual feeling?
Lucas: I think in my third season I felt really strong right from the start of the season. It was the season that Xabi Alonso left. There was more pressure but I had the chance to play more games. For the first two seasons I was playing but not too often. I was playing maybe 15 or 20 games but coming on as a substitute mainly. And that's not the same. So, the third season, when Alonso left, I knew the pressure was so high but that I had the chance. That season I played about 60 games. Alberto Aquilani came to replace him and he got injured, so I just played plenty of games and I think I did well. At the end of the season I felt really strong. Then Rafa left the club and this was another situation for me to think about. Over the last two seasons it's been a much more comfortable situation for me at the club.
Molby: When you talk about being very close to leaving, I went through a similar experience in my first season. I almost gave up - I had finished with Liverpool and I wanted to go somewhere else just to play football because I didn't think it was going to happen for me here. Then there was a change in manager, Kenny Dalglish came in and that changed my Liverpool career. Without him as a manager, I don't know what it would have been like. Did you feel as though you would struggle after a good season with Rafa leaving?
Lucas: I felt as though it was almost the end for me at the club. I nearly left. I knew they were looking for players. They signed Christian Poulsen at the time, and that was a message for me, that I was not really in their plans. So I was really close to leaving to go to Italy. For some reason I did not go, I stayed. After a few games, I got my place back in the team and I started to play a bit more. Then Kenny came in. I really started to play with a lot of confidence and at the end of the year I was voted Player of the Season by the fans. So that moment was very important.
Jan, can you tell me about your injury, when you had a really difficult injury like mine. Tell me what you felt in that moment and the doubts that you had because I had a lot.
Molby: When you get injured, you take it day-by-day. Eventually they diagnose you and they tell you how it's going to work. After a few weeks they finally came to the conclusion that I was going to be out for 10 months. And then you start to think. But back in those days we weren't monitored [fitness-wise] like today's footballers are. I think I would have been back quicker had it been a bit more like today. I was put in plaster and I was on crutches for weeks. Whereas today you would be in the swimming pool or you would be cycling soon after the injury. Things are totally different. The unfortunate thing with my injury was that, and I know you've recovered twice now, I didn't really recover. It was an Achilles injury and I was never the same player again. You know how you feel when you feel really good? And you feel strong and you have power and you can do things? I never felt that after my injury. But it's just one of those things, it was the time we played in. They just didn't have the knowledge that there is today. When I was out injured, I always felt that I could come back, but it never quite worked out.
Lucas: I have an uncle who played in Brazil and he was quite famous. He had to retire when he was 29 years old with a meniscus problem. Today, it would take just two or three weeks to treat and he would have been back out there playing. I recall my injury very well, though. It took time and I had to get on with the recovery plan and everything but I really feel as though I am getting back to the shape I was in before the injury.
Molby: What you find the hardest when you come back is getting back to playing and being sharp and seeing things on the pitch.
Lucas: The knee injury (in November 2011) was because of a tackle. So I am now always thinking that if I tackle in a certain way it could result in another injury. It was very hard; I had to work a lot on the mental side of it. But that's the way I play and I need to tackle, otherwise, I won't be playing the way I want to play. But when you get into the game, you just forget about it and you just have to go and play. There's also the pace of the game. You think you are training well when you are on your own and you are quick. But when you have players around you and the ball moves so quickly, you know that you are not quite there yet. I felt that when I came back from the first injury, that after five or six games I might be in good shape but then I got injured again. So I just had to stop. Then I found out that would keep me out for three months. In five years in Liverpool, I didn't have any injuries and then in one year, I had two bad injuries. So it was a learning process for me but I knew I just had to get stronger, mentally and physically. And I think I'm getting there again. It's a long process, we know that, but I'm lucky that people have a lot of confidence in me and they are giving me games as well, which is important.
Molby: There are a lot of similarities in that when Liverpool signed you, they didn't sign you to replace anyone. But eventually when your time came to be in the first team, it was to replace Alonso, wasn't it? How did that sit with you? Did you find that was part of your frustrations, that people were trying to compare you to Alonso?
Lucas: Especially the way we finished the season, we almost won the league the season before. Then Alonso left to Real Madrid and people were sure that we were going to win the league now. Of course we didn't have a good year, and we had a bad start as well. It was easy for people to just say 'the only player that changed the team was Lucas, so that's the reason'. Maybe it could be, not the reason but maybe I was not the same player as Alonso. I think it didn't help. I felt the pressure was very unfair with me because you can't compare players with players.
Molby: Where was the pressure coming from - the manager, the fans or even your teammates?
Lucas: I felt it from my teammates and from the fans as well. Rafa was very good for me; maybe he knew that the team was not the same as with Alonso. But he just watched me every day and saw that I really wanted to show people that I was capable to play for Liverpool and be a good player. More from outside and also, of course, the way that you feel in the dressing room - people look at you and it's not the same thing. It's just another difficult moment but after I got the whole season and played really well, the respect was there afterwards.
Molby: See, I was brought in to replace a guy called Graeme Souness, who is probably one of the greatest midfield players in the club's history but a really tough player. I felt for 12 months in my first year that people couldn't look beyond that. They wanted me to be like Souness was and I wasn't. Because I'm a big guy anyway, people thought I was going to be physically strong. My first season is actually the only season I've ever been suspended - I picked up 11 bookings because I was trying to be something I wasn't. Then Kenny came in as a manager and gave me a different role. People always said 'Jan has changed'. But I hadn't changed, because I just played my normal game. When I changed was in my first season, I played a game that wasn't my game. But in that second season, I did what I was good at.
Lucas: It's the same with Alonso. The passing that he has - the range and the long passes - it's just not my game. Then people just had to accept that. It's not every day you can find an Alonso. I have enough qualities to show I can do it, but in another way. People also have to adapt, that's the way it works. It was frustrating for me. I just thought 'the pressure is a lot on me but I'll have the chance to play'. That's when I played 55 games, when I felt really strong and felt really good. We got to the semi-finals of the Europa League that year and I was feeling really well. It was a good experience. Maybe if Alonso was still at Liverpool, maybe my time was not to stay at Liverpool. That's the way it is - I'm very happy here now.
Can you tell me in football, a low point that you had? I know you've been in jail - I would like you to tell me why that happened, because of injuries or was it a mix of everything?
Molby: It was a mix of everything but it was during the time of the injury. It was a very unfortunate thing. It's one of those things that if you could rewind the time, you would never want to do that again. It was a driving offence - a lot of people get misunderstood and think it was drink driving; it wasn't, I just drove too fast in my car and paid the penalty. But it's definitely one of those moments you go 'if I could ever do things again I would leave that out'. It was a very difficult time. Delighted that the club eventually decided to stand by me, I got a new contract and stayed at the club for another seven years after that. But, of course, there were plenty of good moments as well. Getting into the team in 1985 as a regular and playing 59 games, scoring 21 goals in one season when we won the double. That was the stand-out moment for me. After that we won more championships and we won FA Cups. There was a lot more highs than lows. I also think people always talk about 'what does it take to win?' The first thing you have to do is believe. I think if you try to win, you've won a league title before you know what it takes and you kind of know the journey. We maybe have that with Manchester United now, they know what it takes don't they?
Lucas: I think so, yes.
Molby: We maybe lack that experience at Liverpool...
Lucas: Maybe that belief. If you want to win a Premier League you have to be really strong from the first day until the end.
Molby: 38 games. It's hard.
Lucas: That's what good teams do, they are so consistent in all of the games. Of course, in a few moments they will have lows but they know how to win games. It's important. I'm really excited because we have a young team coming, a lot of young players with the experienced players. My dream, of course, is to win the Premier League, even more than the Champions League because people talk about not winning the Premier League for 23 years. I just can't imagine how it would be to win the Premier League title in a Liverpool shirt.
Molby: It would be a big moment, wouldn't it? You talk about winning the Premier League, but as a foreign player - I don't know how you feel, whether when you retire you'll go back to Brazil and live - could you see yourself wanting to go somewhere else to finish your career? Or do you see, if it's possible, you'd like to play for Liverpool until the end of your career?
Lucas: If possible, I'd like to be here...
Molby: Because you do sometimes get players that like to go home to finish, don't you?
Lucas: I will definitely play for my former club in Brazil...
Molby: Do you have a strong feeling for them?
Lucas: I have...
Molby: Was the club you played for in Brazil also the club you supported as a boy?
Lucas: It was, yes, because my family always supported that club. I started to play when I was 15/16 and left when I was 20 when I came to Liverpool. So I still have a very good connection there, people at my time there. I really want to have a chance to play for them again, but I know the time is not now. I have no reason today to think about leaving because the club gives you everything, and the fans and the city. As I mentioned, my boy was born here - so it means a lot. But, of course, I want to achieve things because the career is so short. I'm sure you look at the past and see good moments, trophies and medals - it's important for your feelings and you can show the family.
Molby: When we talk about Liverpool - and we know what a big club Liverpool is around the world - when you meet up with the Brazilian squad, do the other players go 'what's it like to play for Liverpool?'? Are they interested, are they excited? They all want to play for big clubs...
Lucas: They all play for big clubs but they always mention the Anfield atmosphere, they always mention it to me.
Molby: The magic of Anfield...
Lucas: It's just different, it's hard to explain. Just being there every week and European nights - you know how it is. People, especially the players that play in England, they always feel that when they come to Anfield it's not going to be easy because of the atmosphere of the fans and everything. It's a massive club people really respect and maybe not everyone has the luck.
Can you tell me your favourite player that you played with in the national team and also the Liverpool shirt?
Molby: I think I'm lucky in that it's pretty easy. I was at Ajax for two years before I came to Liverpool and I played with Johan Cruyff for one season - obviously Holland's best player ever. And during my time at Denmark I also played with Denmark's best player ever, Michael Laudrup, who you will know now as the manager of Swansea. You might be a little bit too young to remember him, Lucas, but what a fine player he was.
Lucas: I had a chance to speak with Agger and he said he was amazing.
Molby: Yes, he was an amazing player. Often a player is not given enough credit. It's a bit like what you see with your own eyes. You've seen Ronaldo, I didn't see enough of Kenny Dalglish. So the best Liverpool player I've ever played with, and also the best Liverpool player I've ever seen, is John Barnes. John Barnes came in 1987, he was a great player. He was my favourite Liverpool player. You talk about Torres and Gerrard, or whatever, but I think John for three years was as good as anything they delivered. I think that gives you an idea.
Lucas: Maybe in the past, the media thing, you didn't have as many as we have. So to be a big player was not that easy.
Molby: We played games with no TV cameras sometimes. You couldn't think that today, could you?
Don't say Pele, but who is your favourite Brazilian player of all time?
Lucas: My favourite - Ronaldo. We could say Zico but I didn't have a chance to watch him. We just see videos. But Ronaldo, I really remember him and especially 2002, when he came back from two very bad injuries and was unbelievable. He is still a hero in Brazil. After having a chance to play with Ronaldinho, you just see how many good players Brazil produced in the last few years.
Molby: It's very difficult to compare from era to era, but if you had a choice would you have liked to have played football back in the '80s?
Lucas: Analysing what we have now, all the facilities and, as we mentioned, the physios and the knowledge...maybe I would have liked to see how I would cope. But today is a better moment to play football.
Molby: Do you think there are almost no excuses today because you have everything ready, you're as fit as you possibly you can be, you eat all the right food...
Lucas: There are no excuses, you have everything. So if you are playing bad or not having a great season, you have to find what is going wrong. But I think the pace of the game got quicker and quicker...
Molby: Quicker and quicker and quicker. The game today from when we played is unrecognisable. It's played so quick. The product is great, the Premier League is a fantastic spectacle. I find it very difficult to see whether players from the '80s could play today. I don't know. We all think we were great players and we played in a great era, but I don't know whether we could play today. The physical demands are such, I have no idea.
Lucas: You would adapt, no?
Molby: I would love to be able to be in a position just for one game, just to get a feel. I have no idea how quick it is.
Lucas: It doesn't look too quick, watching. I've been watching for almost 10 months and it doesn't look that quick. But when it's there, it's so quick. I can feel when I go to the national team, that the pace here in the Premier League - I don't think anywhere else has that pace. If you can play in the Premier League, you can play anywhere in the world because of that pace and that physicality. If you have the quality, you have the quality.
Molby: It's an interesting thought, isn't it - whether you could actually play in another era?
Lucas: Yes. Of course, people talk about Pele but we have to analyse: if you are good in your era...
Molby: ...there's no reason why you shouldn't be good in another era.
Lucas: You were good and that's it. It's difficult to compare but if you were good because of what you had at that moment, you were good. You can't just compare with now, and things will just get even better and better. It will be even more, not difficult, but quicker. We will see. Maybe when I'm retired, we will be here talking, saying 'the game when you used to play was very slow. Now it's the real pace'.
Molby: Even quicker!
Lucas: Yes, even quicker. I don't know how it can be any quicker than now, but...
Molby: They'll probably find a way...
Lucas: They will.
Do you have any advice for me to be a great player and, as people say here, a legend?
Molby: I think playing for Liverpool and becoming a great player almost takes care of itself. You don't have to do anything special - you just have to do what you do. When I'm saying what you do, I'm not talking about you specifically. Fans recognise what it is that you do and I think it will take care of itself. I think there are other clubs where you have to do all sorts of different things to be recognised as a great player. But the fans here at Liverpool know the game so well that they understand what it takes to put a good team together. It takes a goalscorer, a playmaker, a defensive guy...
Lucas: I feel the first thing that they put it on is your work-rate.
Lucas: They really don't care about what you have, if you have quality or score goals. If you work first thing, you will be recognised. Of course, afterwards you need to have potential and quality. It's good. If they feel you are working, giving 110 per cent every game and showing respect and that you want to be playing for Liverpool - they will respect you and, as you said, it will take care of itself.
Molby: Talking about you Lucas, it has taken care of itself hasn't it? You've had a very difficult start. You've probably had the most difficult start of any player at Liverpool who then has eventually turned it around. I think the fans have a lot of respect for you because of that. Is that how you feel?
Lucas: That's how I feel, yes. That's how I feel. A lot of people come now and say 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry I used to doubt you and used to boo you. I'm sorry, I was wrong'. I just understand. I don't think it was nice and I don't want any player to have that. I was talking with a few young players and I mentioned one, Jordan. I said: 'Jordan, I know people talk and see if he's good enough or whatever.' I said: 'Don't worry, just keep doing what you're doing and things will become better.' We can see now, people are starting to appreciate the work that he does. I'm not saying people are already putting him up there, but it's just a learning process that will change. That's how I feel now.
Molby: Does it make you feel good, being able to pass on some of your advice and use yourself as an example?
Lucas: I think so. As you mentioned, you don't think any player had that moment, that difficult moment, like myself and turned things around. So I think I can use that, especially for the young players because I was in the same situation - very young, high expectation. People normally judge you on the amount of money the club paid for you. It's not fair. So I just try to pass my experience because I think it can be helpful for these young players. We can see a lot of young players that maybe had a difficult moment, didn't have the belief or the time to prove themselves and finishing at a small club. It's hard.
Molby: Anyway, the most important thing is that we both made it in the end, didn't we?