Lucas: I feared for my career
Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva initially feared for his career after undergoing knee surgery but after months of rehabilitation he is looking to make a timely return to fitness.
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The Brazil international missed more than half of last season following an operation to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in December after he was carried off in the Carling Cup fifth-round win at Chelsea.
Lucas has undergone an intensive programme to get him back on his feet, spending some of his time in his homeland working at former club Gremio.
But it has been a tough struggle for the 25-year-old dealing with his first serious injury.
"It has been very hard for me because I have never been out for a month so you can imagine five months when I can't play and only watch the games," he told Press Association Sport.
"I just had to cope with the injury and the time. As soon as you get the injury you know you will be out for many months and you start to think about other things.
"The most difficult period for me was when I was on crutches for two months, especially the first four weeks after the surgery when the knee was swollen.
"To be honest in a few moments I thought I couldn't come back any more or even walk because the way I looked at my knee I felt scared.
"But as soon as I started the rehab it is unbelievable how your body reacts.
"My main target now is to be 100% recovered and be okay to play a part in next season."
Lucas has now returned to Merseyside as the club began pre-season training on Wednesday for all those players not involved in summer international duty, and has a much brighter outlook than he did in those initial days last winter.
"I don't have too many experiences with injuries because fortunately I had none in my time at Liverpool previously, so it has been a learning process for me as well and I am very happy with the progress," he added.
"I think I am progressing very well in terms of the knee, strength and fitness-wise.
"I am working every week and trying to improve every week and the main target is to be fit for the new season, if not for the start then after a few weeks.
"And I think maybe this six to eight months I will add on at the end of my career.
"I am confident I will be back at the same level because I know how hard I am working."
Having overcome initial fears about his long-term career prospects, the Brazilian, whose absence was sorely missed in the latter half of the campaign, now has to tackle other psychological issues as thoughts turn to a return to full training and playing.
"The first four weeks I saw my knee it was very bad looking and it comes through your head that you might not be at the same level you were before," he said.
"But at the same time you see big players who had the same injury come back and be even better.
"There is no need for me to be scared. Rather than stay protecting myself, I need to work on my head as well to come back and play the same way I was playing before.
"One of the things which made me strong in the team was how aggressive I was in tackles and things like that, so I cannot lose that."