Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has praised midfielder Lucas Leiva for the way he has battled back to full fitness.
The 26-year-old is back in the Reds side again after seeing the last 18 months decimated by serious injury.
The Brazil international suffered knee ligament damage in a League Cup clash at Chelsea in November 2011, forcing him to spend eight months on the sidelines.
He returned to first-team action in time for the start of this season, but in just his fourth game back he suffered a thigh injury, ruling him out for a further three months.
The former Gremio man returned to fitness at the start of December and has been a regular in the first-team since, with boss Rodgers full of praise for the way he has applied himself during his rehabilitation, despite so many setbacks.
"I've been delighted with Lucas," he told the Liverpool Echo. "We were very wary of the fact he had had a serious knee injury last season, and then obviously another problem on top of that this season.
"It was important for the team to get him back, but it was important for him that we did so at the right pace and that we paced his recovery right.
"It is a big credit to him as a professional. He has worked so hard, and his attitude and his application has been first class. He deserves every praise for the way he has conducted himself."
Despite his progress, Rodgers believes the Anfield fans will not see the best of Lucas until next season, adding: "I still believe, having worked with these kind of injuries in the past, that it won't be until the summer, and beyond even, that we see him back at full level.
"It will be great for him to get a full pre-season with the group under his belt, but you can see in recent games that his mobility and the speed of his game is getting better and better all the time.
"As I say, it is a credit to him. He's been fantastic."
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