When Luiz Gustavo joined FC Bayern from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in January 2011, part of the deal was the six month loan of a promising young Austrian named David Alaba in the other direction.
While Gustavo arrived in Munich just in time to experience the messy collapse of the Louis van Gaal era, Alaba refined his trade in the often unloved blue of Hoffenheim.
Gustavo, who had arguably been Hoffenheim's finest player in the first half of that season, was supposed to be making the big time, while Alaba was just setting out on the long road to a regular first team place at FC Bayern. As it transpired, however, Alaba returned to make the left back position his own, while Gustavo has spent the last two and a half years as rarely more than a joker and a gap filler.
That is not to say that there is a particularly significant gulf in quality between Luiz Gustavo and David Alaba. Rather, Gustavo had the misfortune to play in a position in which Bayern were to become impressively well equipped, while Alaba adapted himself to fit the left back role which had become such a problem under van Gaal.
For Gustavo, there has always been a Mark van Bommel, a Basti Schweinsteiger or a Javi Martínez to fight past in the pecking order. It is a problem which, should the alleged £14m move to Arsenal be realised, he would experience a little less in North London.
For while breathing space may be a rarity in Bayern's midfield, there is no doubting Gustavo's quality. There is a reason he has begun to cement a place in the Brazilian first eleven, if not in Bayern's. For Arsenal, moreover, he would go as far to filling the gap left by Alex Song as one could imagine of any player at the moment. An accomplished midfielder with a vicious shot, he remains a little more defensively minded than the likes of Wilshere or Ramsey, and could make the position the Germans call the Sechser his own at the Emirates.
Indeed, should negotiations be as far as reports suggest, there is little reason to believe Gustavo would not move to Arsenal given the chance. Occasionally mistake prone but largely exciting, he rather fits the bill as a modern Gunner, and after two and half years, the place in Bayern's starting eleven now looks further away than ever. Pep Guardiola has reverted to playing with a single defensive midfielder, with Schweinsteiger, Martínez and now Thiago the main competitors. It is one of Bayern's worst kept secrets that Gustavo is one of three players who do not feature in the new manager's plans at all.
While his talents may have run their course at Bayern, though, Gustavo has qualities which Arsène Wenger will welcome with open arms. Throughout his stay a Bayern, he has resolutely fought for his place among slightly superior players, been flexible enough to play in several positions, and until now never given up on the fight for his place. Such resilience is perhaps what has drawn Wenger's eye.
Let us be clear, Luiz Gustavo has had little more than a fleeting influence on Bayern's success in recent years, and he would not revolutionise Arsenal's midfield. But he remains much more than the useful part time player he appears to be in Munich. A move to North London may just give him the chance to show that.Reuse content