Whether you’re watching football from near or afar, it’s hard not to notice the player that sticks out like a sore thumb ahead of the other 21 performers on the pitch. This just happens to be the case for David Luiz. The afro-clad, Sideshow Bob wannabe Chelsea defender is instantaneously recognisable as soon as he takes to the field.
Often lackadaisically strutting around the terrain, his particular choice of hairstyle means fans will pick him out above the rest, especially if a mistake is made by the Brazilian. What’s worse is that his position will regularly be capitalised upon by opposition strikers, meaning any blunder will have a detrimental effect on the team, be it Brazil or the West London outfit.
Low concentration levels from the 25-year-old don’t aid his cause and without an experienced centre-back alongside him in the Blues backline, Luiz bears a striking resemblance to a crack addict enduring a horrendous, Breaking Bad-esque comedown
Nevertheless, the footballing capability is certainly evident. With the ball at his feet and striding forward into midfield, reminiscent of compatriot Lucio in his prime, the former Benfica star can cause teams damage, especially when given the time and space to work his Brazilian magic.
Many a fan are of the opinion that a place in the middle of the park would be better suited for Ivan Campo MK: II, his power and natural footballing ability rendering him perfectly suited for a place in midfield.
It appears the collective agreement of the fine connoisseurs of the game were somehow brought to the attention of current Chelsea interim first team manager Rafael Benitez. The Spaniard opted to partner Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill in the heart of the defence for the recent Club World Cup encounter against Monterrey, allowing Luiz to push forward to slot in alongside John Obi Mikel in midfield.
Not only was it the burliest pairing in the history of football, it also gave the energetic Brazilian a license to roam, marauding to the same damaging effect as compatriot Ramires. Safe in the knowledge that Mikel, Ivanovic and Cahill were all well positioned behind him, Luiz effectively blossomed, to an extent, in the middle of park.
His technique, power and energy certainly benefitted a Blues midfield that has, it could be said, been lacking a player of his ilk since Michael Essien succumbed to a series of problematic knee injuries. On top of that, with Oriol Romeu sidelined for the next six months, effectively cutting his season short, and Frank Lampard still recovering from injury, Benitez has a space for Luiz higher up the pitch.
Against the Mexican outfit on Thursday, the South American powerhouse effortlessly slotted in alongside his Nigerian teammate. Granted, there were mistakes, but in his first outing in the position it’s to be expected.
Furthermore, his presence in the middle of the park benefitted one man in particular - Fernando Torres. Benitez has made it his immediate priority to bring the best out of his compatriot and five goals in three games is an impressive return for a player who had scored just one in 12 prior to the 6-1 win over FC Nordsjaelland.
Numerous times, Luiz attempted probing long passes up the pitch in order to release the Spaniard, much like Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard during Torres’ days with Liverpool, with the front-man expected to utilise his pace in order to beat the last man and find himself one-on-one with the opposition goalkeeper.
The Brazilian may’ve only completed 84% of his 50 attempted passes - a stat courtesy of Duncan Alexander - which could be considered low by any midfielder’s standards, but it can be argued the opportunity to often look for the riskier ball is the reason for a lower figure than many had expected.
Work will certainly need to be done if Luiz is to fully convert from a defender into a midfielder. The 25-year-old has played less than 90 minutes in the position, with his 15 minute cameo against Nordsjaelland coming a little under prior to his 65 minutes against Monterrey.
He has all the attributes, physically anyway, to succeed in the role, while the protective netting to catch him when he inevitably falls means his mistakes won’t be necessarily picked up on and analysed to great depth, such as they would be if he were playing in defence.
While Monterrey didn’t provide the most stringent of tests for Luiz, the defender gave off plenty of positive signs that he can, at least, prove to be an adequate stand in for Ramires when needs must. The latter, for all his hard work, will need time to recoup and recharge his batteries from time to time and with it, Benitez indeed has himself a potent weapon in his arsenal in the shape of the afro sporting demi-god. Provided, of course, he can keep the Brazilian away from the tactically placed rakes.