"Oh David Luiz, you are the love of my life..."
So begins one of the most popular Chelsea chants -- an amusing testimony to a player whom, since his arrival from Benfica in the January 2011 transfer window, has endeared himself to Blues supporters and achieved cult status by virtue of his Brazilian-buccaneering, samba style of play and resemblance to a character on "The Simpsons," Sideshow Bob.
In two and a half seasons, David Luiz has made 109 appearances for Chelsea, scored 12 goals and has Champions League and Europa League winners' medals to show off as a reward for his swashbuckling endeavours. At 26, Luiz is an integral part of former Blues and now Brazil gaffer Luiz Felipe 'Big Phil' Scolari's plans to win the World Cup on home soil next summer, and played a significant part in the national side's recent and triumphant Confederations Cup campaign.
Off the pitch, David Luiz is a marketing man's dream. A man of devout faith, he's never going to be seen rolling out of nightclubs staggering drunk. Pop star good looks, enthusiasm and charm add to his appeal as does a personal philosophy best summarised in Luiz's three-word Twitter biography, which simply reads "Enjoy the life!"
Luiz is a modern-era Blue who fits the traditional King of the King's Road mould that defined the personality of Chelsea Football Club -- and yet week-in, week-out, despite having signed a new five-year contract in September 2012, his name is constantly linked with a big-money move away from the Bridge -- the only star player in the current Blues squad to be the regular subject of transfer rumour-mongering.
How can this be?
A long-term Blues target, and coming with a £20 million-plus price tag, it was Carlo Ancelotti who finally prised Luiz away from Benfica -- the objective of finding a replacement either for gifted central defender Ricardo Carvalho, who'd departed Stamford Bridge in August 2010, or for the increasingly injury/suspension-prone John Terry had been achieved -- or so it seemed.
After an inauspicious debut as a substitute in a 1-0 home defeat to Liverpool, the Brazilian was handed his first Chelsea start at Craven Cottage just more than a week later on Valentine's Day. The Blues drew 0-0 with Fulham, with Luiz displaying sufficient sweetheart skill and versatility to be named man-of-the-match several minutes before the final whistle. With the game deep into stoppage-time, and traveling Blues supporters already chanting his name, Luiz had a 93rd-minute rush of blood to the head and clattered Cottager Clint Dempsey to the ground to concede a penalty. An athletic save by Petr Cech spared the visitors, and the Chelsea new boy's blushes -- leaving Ancelotti to remark, "maybe he was tired," when commenting on his reassuringly expensive centre-back's otherwise stellar performance.
During March 2011, it became clear that Luiz was no ordinary defender and as the realization sprouted and blossomed, he scored his first Chelsea goals. The first was a sparkling half-volley against Manchester United, the second, a classy header against Man City. Luiz's grace, mobility and versatility earned him column inches of plaudits and with them came a Player of the Month award.
The ruthless and unwarranted sacking of Ancelotti didn't faze Luiz in the way it clearly aggravated the Chelsea old guard -- simply speaking, he hadn't been around long enough. When Andre Villas-Boas took over as manager/coach (call it what you will) and almost immediately ran into a plethora of problems, Luiz was one of the few players who cut his cloth according to that of his new boss. It was a display of maturity which, when coupled with his never-say-die attitude on the pitch, had sections of the media championing his credentials as a possible future Chelsea captain.
Unfortunately, though, the erratic side of Luiz's game was still there, more often than not in key encounters being beamed across the globe via satellite television. In November, Chelsea and their defence, in particular, put in a poor shift against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge with the Reds running out 2-1 winners. Sky TV co-commentator Gary Neville, in a breathtaking display of immaturity, singled out Luiz for criticism suggesting his rumbustious style of play made it look like he was "being controlled by a 10-year-old playing on his PlayStation." Villas-Boas leapt to Luiz's defence as did Chelsea supporters, who were perhaps more incensed that the comments had been made by a former Manchester United player than what Neville was implying.
Despite the upheaval of Villas-Boas' inevitable sacking later in the season, Luiz would continue to answer his critics once again with high-profile man-of-the-match displays against Napoli and Benfica in the Champions League, though injury would rob him of the opportunity to participate in both games with Barcelona and the FA Cup final victory over Liverpool. With John Terry suspended for the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, "interim" Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo gambled on the Brazilian's fitness and was duly rewarded with a composed 120-minute display and a clinically converted penalty in the shootout that decided the match.
Last season, the Luiz sanity pendulum continued to swing from sane to insane with the champion of Europe saving the best, or maybe that should read worst, of his mad-cap lunacy for Manchester United and most probably Gary Neville. When the Red Devils came to the Bridge in October, Luiz couldn't handle the threat of Robin van Persie and spent most of the game manhandling the flying Dutchman. In the return fixture at Old Trafford, a certain smiling Brazilian was accused of getting his countryman Rafael sent off. Such controversies overshadowed the more robust performances that arguably came when the phenomenally unpopular Rafa Benitez elected occasionally to play Luiz as a defensive midfielder, leading many Chelsea supporters to believe that this was the damage-limiting panacea they were seeking for their hero.
Ancelotti, Villa-Boas, Di Matteo, Benitez: four very different coaches -- none of whom, in the short period of time they worked with him, managed to curb the reckless streak in the nature of Luiz. So will Jose Mourinho succeed where others have failed? Or is it a question of should he bother to try? Does Mourinho see in Luiz a slightly flawed genius who might cost Chelsea points and the title over the coming season that might be as tight as to be decided on goal difference? Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG and now Manchester United have all been linked with a player who has openly stated he wants to stay in London and play for Chelsea. Be that as it may, Mourinho may well be thinking that if the right offer came in for Luiz he could use the money elsewhere and eliminate any lingering concerns he has related to the player's temperament.
For many Blues supporters, David Luiz is box-office gold. He is a once-in-a-lifetime player. An entertainer, a winner, a football athlete, a nice guy and he's Chelsea through-and-through. A true test of Mourinho's managerial mettle would be to iron out the flaws in Luiz's game -- it will be interesting to see what transpires.
"Oh David Luiz, you are the love of my life..."