Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has hailed former Arsenal star Gilberto Silva as the man who set the standard for Brazilian players in the Premier League.
While many players hailing from the South American nation have failed to match expectations upon arriving in English football, the all-action midfielder was a huge success in North London.
Gilberto Silva arrived at Highbury in a £4.5 million move from Atlético Mineiro in the summer of 2002, and went on to play more than 200 matches for the Gunners. playing a pivotal role as Arsene Wenger's side won the 2003/04 Premier League title and two FA Cups.
Speaking exclusively to FourFourTwo, Lucas has credited the former Arsenal man for proving that Brazilian players could be successful in the Premier League.
"A few years ago we would only see defensive Brazilian players adapting here. Juninho [at Middlesbrough] was the exception, but I think it was actually Gilberto Silva [at Arsenal] who really confirmed that Brazilians could succeed in England.
"Now we have lots of Brazilians, like Rafael, Fabio, Anderson, Sandro, Gomes, Julio Cesar, Ramires, David Luiz, Oscar. I think the mentality of Brazilians is also improving, in terms of adapting."
Although the 25-year-old Anfield star is now seen as one of the Premier League's top defensive midfielders, this was not always the case. During his early years on Merseyside, Lucas struggled to establish himself in the Liverpool engine room.
"At times I thought of looking for another league," Lucas said. "But something told me I should keep trying and that it would work out someday.
"I was rewarded for this persistence, and it also helped that I was open to some things that maybe others weren't, such as changing my position."
The midfielder has spent much of the last 12 months on the sidelines through injury, but is set for a return to the first-team fold in the coming weeks, having recently returned to full training.comments