When Chelsea bought David Luiz for an undisclosed fee three years ago, the Brazilian burst on to the Premier League scene with far more ease and authority than what was expected from the 23-year old centre-back. Being named man of the match in his first start for the Blues, he became an instant hero among the supporters. With a skill repertoire that surpass most of his defending contemporaries and a nonchalant attitude to go with it, Luiz is a spectators player. A man with both ability, flair and personality. I remember thinking he was destined for greatness at Stamford Bridge.
Three seasons on, Luiz is struggling to get a game. Not only is he behind three or four players in the pecking order, he’s being moved around the pitch, and no one seem to agree on what his best position is. So far this season he has featured in five Premier League games, and alarmingly, Chelsea have lost two and drawn one of these bouts.
Jose Mourinho is also showing blatant distrust in his case. This is understandable, as Luiz has a tendency to let his careless persona affect his concentration in games, making him a defensive liability. For all his ability and zest, he has yet to prove that he can be the defensive rock Mourinho need him to be. Paradoxically, he is dangerous in front of both goals.
Where did it go wrong for David Luiz? In the second half last season he was pushed into central midfield by Rafa Benitez, and did brilliantly. Rafa himself praised his contribution, and claimed he was one of the very top players in the league. Who can forget his 30 yard screamer against Fulham?
The declining impact he’s had on Chelsea since May is a natural consequence of the managerial change. Despite his talent, Luiz is just not a Mourinho player. The Portuguese is much too cautious. In all his teams, he’s always prioritized rock hard defensive solidity. Centre-halfs in Jose’s sides are allowed to be technically adept, but there is no room for error. Subsequently, the 26-year old will not be relied on.
I, for one, cannot understand for the life of me how a player like Luiz ended up as a defender. A player with such a natural instinct to go forward should surely be a DM at least, right? He has an eye for a pass, too, and he has all the composure of a natural midfielder on the ball. He couldn’t get worked up if the stadium fell down. Unfortunately for him, that’s just not what Jose is looking for in his holding runners either.
Mourinho has always deployed hard workers to protect his back four. At Porto he had Costinha doing the dirty work, and when he first came to Chelsea he had Claude Makelele, who defined the role of the anchor position, and has since become the reference point of a DM who work in the team’s shadow towards little glory or recognition. Xabi Alonso don’t jump into tackles, but drifts into the right areas, offloading his teammates as efficient as any player on the planet. Again, Luiz won’t fit the bill.
Meanwhile, rumor has it Barcelona is tracking his situation. With their philosophy of dominating teams out of their style and the perforations for attacking minded centre-halfs, Luiz might find his place. To get a transfer to Barcelona after a season in which you don’t requires an extraordinary amount of luck, but the Catalans are looking for a replacement for the aging Carlos Puyol. And if nothing else, at least Luiz’s hair will not fall short of recognition.
For now the player with 33 caps for Brazil remains a weak link in Mourinho’s chain. With the upcoming World Cup at home, Luiz is surely eager to get first team football. Problem is, I doubt he will ever get the permanent nod from the brilliant but cautious Portuguese manager.
Perhaps a change of scenery would do him good.
Should David Luiz consider his options?
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