When Fernando Torres joined Chelsea at the end of the January transfer window in a headline-making £50m deal from Liverpool, he was seen as the star arrival to help revive their ailing season. However, his much-discussed struggle and failure to score in seven appearances for the Blues has seen the rise of an unexpected hero at Stamford Bridge, in the form of his fellow deadline-day signing David Luiz. The 23-year-old Luiz arrived from Benfica for a fee of around £25m to boost a Blues defence that had struggled throughout a winter slump that left the club teetering outside the top four of the Premier League.
Having spent four years plying his trade in Portugal, during which he established an increasing reputation as a defensive colossus, those who had not seen Luiz play before signing for the Premier League champions may still have heard of him. As one of the most sought after defenders in Europe, he attracted the attention of big-spending Manchester City before a move to London turned his head. Strong, versatile across the backline whilst composed on and off the ball, Chelsea fans’ new found cult hero has taken to the Premier League impressively and appears to be learning more with each Blues appearance since making his debut as a late replacement for Jose Bosingwa at right-back in a disappointing home defeat to Liverpool.
Making his first Blues start away to Fulham away on February 14, this time reverting to centre-back, Luiz appeared comfortable immediately, putting in a brilliant display – although he did concede a late penalty, which was saved in a 0-0 draw. Since then, however, he and Chelsea have not looked back – three Premier League games, three morale-boosting wins which have moved them up into third place and pulled them within nine points of table-topping Manchester United. Luiz has gotten better with each match and has been crucial in the sudden recovery of form with two vital goals in three games. First, his second-half equaliser against Manchester United, a wonderfully taken half-volley befitting a striker of Torres’ undoubted quality, set his side on their way to a hugely important comeback win before he opened the scoring against Manchester City with a late header in Sunday’s 2-0 victory.
Nicknamed ‘Carlos’ by his new team-mates and ‘Sideshow’ by Chelsea fans due to his bushy afro hairstyle similar to that of Columbian great Carlos Valderrama and Simpsons character Sideshow Bob, Luiz has quickly become popular at Chelsea and what he could learn from John Terry – a never-say-die attitude and commitment to win at every cost – could transform him into one of the world’s best. Already blessed with fantastic skill with the ball at his feet, Luiz is a wonderful example of Brazilian talent, but cuts more of a Ricardo Carvalho figure as observed by Fernando Santos, his former Coach at Benfica. Should Luiz carry on his development and forge a partnership alongside Terry, or indeed his international colleague Alex, the Brazilian could well be the Chelsea star man ahead of Torres for many years to come.