Benitez pleased with Lucas development

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has singled out the performances of Lucas Leiva and Dirk Kuyt this season, for having maintained their top form despite the turmoil on Merseyside over the past season.

Changes, both in the boardroom and the dugout this season have caused their fair share of upheaval, with the Anfield outfit facing the prospect of a rare season out of Europe next year.

But certain players from the Benitez regime have remained indispensible to the club throughout.

The Spaniard highlighted the rise to prominence of Lucas Leiva in the Premier League as a development he has found particularly sweet to observe.

"I was defending Lucas from the beginning. He played a lot of games and the people in the stadium could see that he was working very hard and improving every day. The more mature a player he becomes the better he will become. I am so pleased for him because he is not only a fantastic player but a nice lad," he told Yahoo!

Benitez also hailed Dutch international Dirk Kuyt, who was one of the former Liverpool’s manager most consistent performers and continues to shine for the Anfield outfit under Kenny Dalglish.

"His [Kuyt’s] commitment is great and he has such positive approach to everything whether it is professionally or with his personal life," he said. "He is a really nice lad and a fantastic player too."

Since Benitez’s departure from Anfield, transfer speculation has surrounded many of the players he brought to Liverpool, none more than goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who has been linked with moves to Arsenal and Manchester United.

He placed extra emphasis on the need for Liverpool to hang onto the former Villarreal stopper.

"When any team has a good player it is important to keep them," he said. "Pepe is one of the key players for Liverpool so if he stays it will be a massive boost for Liverpool."

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By Killian Woods