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David Luiz - Chelsea's new king
Published : 03 Mar 2011 01:38:18Rss feed
Braziliant: Luiz celebrates his goal against United Chelsea fans looked through the transfer window and saw a difference-making goalscorer coming to Stamford Bridge on deadline day. What they didn't realise until Tuesday night was that he was called David Luiz, not Fernando Torres. To describe the frizzy-haired Brazilian as a defender is to ignore the extraordinary range of talents which lurk within. Yes, he should have been sent off for wrestling Wayne Rooney to the ground, but the exquisite technique of his equalising volley against Manchester United masked the fact that he was the furthest Chelsea player forward in open play. That is Luiz. A ?25million international stopper with an inner belief that allowed him to overcome rejection in his teens. His bright mind allowed him to rationalise matters in his youth just as it does on the pitch. In an interview given while he was at Benfica, Luiz said: 'Every day you need to be more intelligent. Football used to be slow and physical. Today, everyone must know their tactics. You have to think quickly.' Benfica fans grew to love a player who gave away a goal within three minutes of his debut as a substitute in a UEFA Cup tie at Paris Saint-Germain in 2007, which left him so spooked that he spent the night in hospital feeling dizzy and sick. Having arrived in Portugal with short hair, his legend grew with his curly locks. The look - a cross between Barcelona captain Carles Puyol and Kevin Keegan circa 1980 - became the haircut of choice for schoolboys in Lisbon. Local journalists interviewing recent Benfica signings during the past three seasons have been struck by the constant which runs through all of their experiences. To a man they pay tribute to Luiz for making them feel a part of the club. Ramires, who made the move from Benfica to Chelsea in August, confirmed: 'Everyone at Benfica loved him, not just because of his quality on the pitch. He likes to help people and I was one of those to benefit. He has everything he needs to succeed at Chelsea. He has a big heart, he's a nice man and he's a nice player to watch on the pitch as well.' Some defender! Luiz scored against United with a stunning volley - and was the furthest Blues player forward Heady testimony for a 23-year-old. And yet it is less than a decade ago that Luiz, having been released by the mighty Sao Paulo in Brazil, was told by Second Division club Vitoria Bahia that he would never be tall or strong enough to be a professional footballer. HAVE YOUR SAY... After beating Man United, can Chelsea retain the title? Chelsea's Premier League odds were slashed after Carlo Ancelotti's side came from behind to beat leaders Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. The Italian was quick to play down the Blues' title chances, but can the champions retain their crown? TELL US WHAT YOU THINK It took the intervention of coach Ilderico Dias Peixoto, known as Tiu, to convince the club that they should persist with the skinny 14-year-old who could be converted from a holding midfield player into a central defender adept at reading a game. Tiu said: 'David has always been grateful because he knows that if it were not for me, he would have been released. He was too scrawny and playing in the wrong position. 'I tried to believe in him. They almost released him twice. The second time, he called me, crying. I asked the youth-team manager to hold on to him. 'I instructed him how to play in defence, how to get the ball, his positioning, to try to have balance, never to lose control of his emotions but to play hard. With his high intelligence and great quality, he adjusted and became a regular. I'm very proud of him now.' Luiz himself recalled, in an interview with this month's Chelsea magazine: 'When I was 14, I had to make a choice and I went to live somewhere that was a 40-hour drive from my parents when I signed for my first professional club, Vitoria. I knew then that I could change the reality of my family and give my parents the life they deserve. I had this dream and it has always been very present in my mind. 'I knew that life would be difficult at times and that I had to concentrate and focus to choose the right paths. In the beginning (at Vitoria), I had some difficulties adapting and at times it was difficult to see myself as a professional player. 'Some people didn't like my work very much but I always believed in myself and I tried to take advantage of every day to improve myself as a player.' After Vitoria's decision to give him a go, Luiz started on a body-building course for six months during which he gained 10lb of muscle. He now boasts a toned 6ft 2in frame and no longer thinks about swapping to his other favourite sport, judo. Same path: Ramires (left) also moved from Benfica to Stamford Bridge, and is a big fan of Luiz There was still no certainty about his eventual transition from promising youngster in the Brazilian lower leagues to European superstar. His agent Giuliano Bertolucci bought into the player - literally - paying Vitoria for half of his rights and convincing Benfica to take him, initially on loan.
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