It is impossible to talk about Douglas Luiz without first touching on two words that have followed his short career around like a stray mutt. Those two words are work permit.
When the young Brazilian was signed by Manchester City in July 2017 for £10.7m he was immediately loaned out to Girona, the Spanish club that the City Football Group had recently acquired a majority stake in.
This made sense threefold because that summer Girona had achieved promotion to La Liga for the first time in their history, meaning the midfielder could acclimatise to European football in the challenging environs of a league similar in tempo and style to the one he had just left behind with Vasco da Gama.
Furthermore, Luiz was a highly regarded number six and it was in CFG’s best interests to maximise Girona’s chances of remaining in the Spanish top flight by loaning them the best of City’s peripheral talent. That close season also saw the temporary secondment of three other emerging stars.
The last consideration was that in Spain work permit issues for South American players are more lenient than in England and it couldn’t hurt Luiz’s cause – should he prove himself a success and return to the Manchester City ranks – if he boasted numerous appearances against Barcelona, Real Madrid et al.
Watch Aston Villa Live Streams With StreamFootball.tv Below
The first two aspects of Luiz’s move worked like a charm. Girona finished a very respectable tenth while the youngster made 15 outings, not overly impressing but showing enough glimpses of his ability to break up play and pick a pass to retain Pep Guardiola’s attention.
It was with the work permit issue where the masterplan came unstuck. With City having missed out on signing Jorginho and in need of a back-up for the ageing Fernandinho, they turned to Catalonia.
Only the Premier League’s criteria is trenchant on a player needing to be a full international and/or be exceptional enough to have a first team spot presumed. Luiz was then 20 with only a handful of under 23 games for the Selecao under his belt. Everyone also knew that Fernandinho was the main man for the defensive midfield job at the Etihad.
Exasperated at the situation City sent him back to Girona and here he thrived, making considerably more impact in considerably more games.
And so eye-catching were his performances that Aston Villa thought they would chance their arm and take advantage of the circumstances with a £15m bid, aware that, for them, the latter of the Premier League’s conditions stands up. They succeeded too and in Douglas Luiz they have a steal.
In 2018/19 the 34-year-old missed 91 days through injury and, had he not been on loan, it can be reasonably assumed that Luiz would have featured in at least several games of a campaign that saw City crowned as champions.
More so, City’s insistence that a buy-back option to be inserted into the deal suggests they’re acutely aware of the calibre of player they’re letting go.
That City exercised a similar buy-back clause to re-sign Angelino proves that it’s one the champions are willing to exercise and not merely a ploy to spare their blushes further down the line.
Luiz is a player who could very conceivably settle and excel at the hub of what is already a strong Villa midfield.
Now the work permit has finally been sorted Dean Smith can consider how to introduce him into the fold.