When he was signed for Chelsea in one of those ‘last minute on-off’ deals from Benfica in the same transfer window as Fernando Torres, Davis Luiz was little known in English football. As is often the case with many foreign players coming into the the Premier League he initially found the pace and physicality difficult to deal with. The things that he could get away with in Portugal were quickly exposed here, and although there was clearly a talented player in there somewhere, he needed to learn and adapt quickly. Once somewhat harshly described by Gary Neville as a ‘Playstation’ defender, Luiz has now matured into one of the most complete defenders in the Premier League.
In his early days at the club, he was quickly given the ‘Sideshow Bob’ sobriquet due to his trademark offering a striking resemblance to the character in ‘The Simpsons.’ I saw him being interviewed some time ago, when the subject was raised with him. Fully expecting a dismissive answer, it was both surprising and entertaining to hear him say that he really liked it, and delighted in being called, the almost perfect football nickname, ‘Bobby.’ As time has gone on, the attitude displayed in that interview has been shown to be illustrative of the player’s ebullient character both in general, and on the field in particular. In these days when many players are in the news for the wrong reasons, it was pleasing to see Great Ormand Street Hospital tweeting about Luiz’s time spent with the patients at that most worthy of establishments.
His play has also developed in equal measure. Chelsea seemed well-blessed at centre back with talismanic John Terry, the ever-reliable Branislav Ivanovic and the emerging Gary Cahill, but Luiz has elbowed his way to the front of the queue for selection in the major games. Such is the ability and sheer footballing talent of the Brazilian, Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez has even deployed Luiz in the holding midfield role, where he performed with equal distinction, and his ability to move forward with the ball has even freer reign. It is in defence however where he has proven of most value to Chelsea. With Terry seemingly in injury-dictated at least temporary decline, although Benitez is still enamoured with the rotation mode of selection, whenever there is a big game, the call is who will play alongside Luiz. The Brazilian has become what is as near to being an automatic first choice as any player – excepting the goalkeeper can be under the Spanish manager. This has also been recognised by the national team, as the selacao has featured Luiz on twenty occasions, a number of which he captained.
Already assured of cult status at Stamford Bridge, not least for the way he rapped in the first of Chelsea’s successful penalties on that dramatic May evening in Bavaria last year, David Luiz has now become the ‘go to guy’ for Chelsea. The sideshow has indeed become the main attraction.