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The Brazilian has endured an injury-plagued 18 months and is nearing full fitness but his manager does not believe that he will be back to his best before next season

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is "delighted" with Lucas Leiva's return from injury, highlighting the midfielder's professionalism during his rehabilitation.

The Brazilian had only just returned to the Reds side after a length spell on the treatment table before suffering a new setback this season and the Northern Irishman has hailed the midfielder's patience.

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Rodgers enthused to the Liverpool Echo: "I've been delighted with Lucas. 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 have been first class. He deserves every praise for the way he has conducted himself."

Although Rodgers is pleased with Lucas's return, he does not expect that the former Gremio man's best form will return until the start of 2013-14 at the very earliest.

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," he opined.

"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. He's been fantastic."

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