Tall and quick but Luiz needs to stop the showboating
Shaggy-haired defender, who has enjoyed rapid rise in Portugal, will add touch of Brazilian flair to Chelsea
Tuesday 25 January 2011
The most eye-catching thing about David Luiz, the centre-half Chelsea are so close to signing, besides the shaggy hairstyle that was last seen modelled by Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons, is how comfortable he is on the ball.
In many respects he is a classic Brazilian centre-half, someone who is happiest carrying the ball out of defence and sidestepping a couple of challenges before slipping the ball to a team-mate and jogging back to take up his place in the back line with the applause ringing in his ears.
However, it is an attribute that has got him in trouble several times in the colours of Benfica, and should he do the same for Chelsea in the near future, John Terry or another of his team-mates will surely point out the error of his ways.
Luiz was born in the city of Diadema, part of Sao Paulo, one of Brazil's largest metropolitan areas. In his home country he played for Esporte Clube Vitoria in the north-east city of Salvador, where the former Brazil goalkeeper Dida, who played for a decade at Milan, is the club's most famous son.
Tall, quick and strong, Luiz made his debut as a teenage left-back and caught the attention of the national team set-up, and went on to represent Brazil at the 2007 Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Canada. After making 47 appearances and scoring seven goals for Vitoria, he was signed on loan by Benfica in the January transfer window of 2007, when he was 19, to fill the gap left by Ricardo Rocha, who had just been sold to Tottenham Hotspur.
Despite being signed with the future in mind, the teenage Luiz was thrown in at the deep end when he was called off the bench to replace Luisao midway through the first half of a Uefa Cup tie against Paris St-Germain in front of a full house at the Parc des Princes. The Brazilian's debut did not start well, as within five minutes Benfica had conceded two quick goals and some fans feared the worst. However, he improved quickly, showed his strength of character and was impressive for the rest of the game.
Luisao's injury kept him out of action for the rest of the season, and his young replacement quickly seized the opportunity with his confidence and strength. Luiz's performances were enough to clinch him a five-year contract in the summer of 2007, which has since been extended until 2015, and although injuries blighted his progress in 2008, over the past two seasons he has cemented his place at centre-half, although he has also proved an able deputy at left-back, where his pace and spirit of adventure can be used to support the attack.
However, it is at centre-half that he has made his name, and many observers expect him to develop into one of the best defenders in the world. He was voted the best player in the Portuguese league last season, when he played a key role in Benfica's title success, and has been given the seal of approval by Real Madrid and former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who said he could not afford to buy him.
Luiz is a devout Christian who does not relish the attention he receives away from the pitch, which will be cranked up several notches should he move to Stamford Bridge. He won the first of his four caps for Brazil in August, and is very much part of the national team plans under new coach Mano Menezes.
Luiz said in a recent interview with Fifa.com: "There aren't any secrets to my success. To be worthy of wearing the Benfica shirt, we [the players] just have to respect the fans and the club. Age isn't really a factor. You can seem young at 34 and mature at 20. For my age, I think I've found a good balance. I've grown up a lot since I came to Europe, I enjoy what I do."
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