David Luiz: The world's most complete footballer?
Chelsea star David Luiz possesses outstanding technical ability - is he the world's most complete player?
Over the years the world has been spoilt by the breathtaking talents of some of the games greatest names: Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Platini, Zidane, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.
At present we have the honour and privilege of witnessing one of football's most storied individual rivalries at full flight: that of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
While the mesmerising skills and jaw-dropping quality of these players put them in rarified company, the question of who is the most complete footballer of all time is a little less clear.
The likes of Duncan Edwards, Alfredo Di Stefano, Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthaus and Ruud Gullit are widely recognised as some of the most complete footballers of all time. Their comfort in a number of positions and vast array of technical and tactical qualities mark them out as indispensable figures to their respective teams given their invaluable versatility.
Today, we can see the likes of Yaya Toure, Arturo Vidal, Javier Mascherano, Ilkay Gundogan and Bastian Schweinsteiger and exhibit similar sorts of qualities. Despite many critics, Chelsea's David Luiz emerged last season as a genuinely world-class player with a number of match-winning performances to establish himself as one of the most entertaining and competent players in the world.
What's more is the manner in which he has developed and blossomed into the player Chelsea hoped he would become when they splashed out in excess of £20m in January 2011.
At present, he is now best described as a reliable, versatile and dynamic centre back who possesses phenomenal technical qualities and match winning capabilities.
When fulfilling his primary role of extinguishing danger at the heart of Chelsea's defence, he is now a model of calm and consistency who can be called upon to hold the defensive fort with an assurance and reliability that spells more John Terry than Jose Bosingwa.
His assured performance in the Champions League final when Bayern Munich was piling on incessant pressure, attests to his maturity and development as a centre-half.
In the prolonged absence of captain Terry during last season, it has appeared as if Luiz has put the responsibility upon himself to cover the significant loss of the clubs heartbeat.
He has seemed like a man on a mission entering every challenge with a steely determination and a toughness that we have not associated the Brazilian with during his time at Stamford Bridge. He has stepped up as a leader this term amidst turmoil and has shone brightest when the clubs predicament were at its grimmest.
There is no surprise that Chelsea fans see him as their next captain. Gone are the days of the erratic and unreliable centre-back who was more of a liability than an asset - his considerable raw ability has been harnessed with the help of Rafa Benitez to allow the Brazilian to fire on all six exciting and powerful cylinders last season.
Gone are the days where Chelsea fans would have their hearts in their mouths when Luiz would be on the ball and marauding upfield with reckless abandon. Gone is the impulsiveness and hastiness brought about by youth; at 26 the former Benfica man is at the peak of his powers and relishing the responsibility of being central to Chelsea's present and future.
Above all, what has been most impressive this season from Luiz is the string of match-winning performances that have come not only in the form of secure defensive performances, but through the Brazilians brilliant goals.
There has never been any doubt about the talents of Luiz, he is a typically flamboyant Brazilian who is more than comfortable with the ball at his feet and has a penchant for the spectacular.
This ability to pull off the spectacular has clearly been visible this season with the centre-half accumulating an outstanding collection of goals that have all contained immense quality and flair.
Thumping free kicks against Nordsjaelland and Aston Villa have illustrated his quality from set pieces - who could forget the clutch free-kick against Basel that clinched victory in the dying seconds of Chelsea's Europa League first leg semi final bout.
As the season approached the pointy end, Luiz had seemingly elevated his game further - his outrageous 35-yard screamer against Fulham at Craven Cottage and astonishing 30-yard curler on his left foot against Basel at Stamford Bridge will be moments Chelsea supporters will cherish forever.
His occasional conversion to a holding midfield position under Benitez has worked a treat with the Brazilian's adventurous passing and daring runs on the ball having added a new dimension to the Blues's midfield. One of the biggest weaknesses of Chelsea last season was their lack of midfield depth, especially in the deeper midfield positions where only John Obi Mikel can be regarded as a genuine defensive midfielder.
Even worse was their lack of a withdrawn playmaker who could spray balls all over the park like Xavi, Pirlo or Alonso. Luiz has been able provide exactly that with the added bonus of his strong physical presence in the centre of the park. It is a position that is perhaps where the Brazilian is best suited to express most of his redeeming qualities as his defensive duties diminish and his attacking freedom expands.
Despite his improvement as a central defender, Luiz's passing range, destructive runs and goal threat would not be best utilised by him playing on the last line of defence.
Now this brings us to the question- is David David Luiz the most complete footballer in the world? Well there are many ways to define what the most 'complete footballer' is:
-most complete defensively
-most complete offensively
-most complete overall
David Luiz's category would be under latter where players are judged on their ability to excel in a number of positions and exhibit the most wide range of skills.
In the modern game today there are few players that can fit this category as well as David Luiz - Yaya Toure is perhaps the only player that could challenge Luiz in this category. Both have strong physical presences on the pitch, both are powerful, both have an impressive passing range, both have great tactical nous, both are adept at tackling, both are athletic, both are able to score and are capable of pulling out magic tricks.
The pair of them are virtually able to play in any position on the pitch - centre-back, defensive midfield, central midfield, attacking midfield and even as a centre forward. There are plenty of players in the world who possess a solid all round game such as Vidal, Schweinsteiger, Iniesta etc but they all lack the necessary size to fulfil key position duties.
The distinction between Toure and Luiz is that Luiz has the ability to excel in a key position and by that I mean as a striker or central defender. Among various systems and formations, wingers, fullbacks and certain midfielders are not essential - however, key positions such as striker or centre back are bookend positions that are simply a necessity in any formation in the modern game.
Therefore, the ability to excel in either position as David Luiz has demonstrated this season, is something Yaya Toure cannot boast because his ability to merely 'play' at centre back is not nearly enough an indication that he would 'thrive' in the position. Whilst Toure is certainly the more accomplished midfielder, Luiz does not require 'specialist skills' in order for him to be effective in midfield, whilst Toure would require so if he was called upon to play in defence.
Toure's fine showing in the heart of defence in the victorious 2009 champions league final is evidence that he can play there to a very high standard, however his ability to competently play there week in week out is a completely different question. As a genuine central defender, Luiz possesses the technicalities associated with defending as it is ingrained in him as a specialist defender, not a makeshift one that Toure would be classified as.
In the days of Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff, the emergence of total football enlightened the world to a whole new system of football - it was seamless, slick and fluid in a manner never seen before.
The players who were successful exponents for the Netherlands national team and Barcelona, are considered to be among the most complete players the sport has ever seen whether it be their positional versatility or all round competence technique wise. If David Luiz is continued to be encouraged like he was under Rafa Benitez to have the freedom to express himself where his flamboyance and brilliance is utilised as a central aspect of Chelsea's footballing philosophy, there is no denying that Luiz is capable of joining this elite list.
What's more is that there is surely improvement to come as he further matures and gains valuable experience at club and international level with a maiden World Cup campaign on the horizon. There has surely been no player over the last 25 years who has as greater ceiling than Luiz in terms of its completeness - the physical stature, the technical excellence, tactical nous, impressive leadership, charisma and breathtaking flair.
Perhaps it's a bit premature to predict such greatness after one great season, however it is impossible to overlook the irresistible potential of one of the games emerging showmen.
David Luiz is not the best footballer in the world. What he is though, is the most versatile and complete player today who possesses outstanding mental, technical and tactical qualities to leave him unmatched with any other player on the planet.
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