In most minds, at least in the English-speaking world, David Luiz is more of a punchline than a real player with strengths and weaknesses like any other.
To them, he’s the guy who got embarrassed by Luis Suárez; who then got embarrassed again by Luis Suárez; who’s never seen a ball he didn’t want to chase after, defensive positioning be damned; who’ll try to dribble through three opponents and ping a perfect pass deep in his own half instead of just clearing the ball; who was brought in by super-rich Chelsea for £25 million then, two and a half years later, got sold to super-rich PSG for an eye-popping £50 million, all without proving that he’s actually all that good at defending; who, as the infamous quote goes, plays as if he were controlled by “a 10-year-old on a Playstation.”
But then he does something like this, and you understand why he’s a must-start for two of the best club and international teams in the world:
David Luiz can pass like no one’s business.
Just look at how crazy that is. A damn center back receiving the ball just outside his team’s penalty box, looking up and seeing a free Neymar on the other side of the pitch, smashing out a pass that carries fully halfway down the field, and having it hit his teammate right in stride, leading to a penalty and Brazil’s second goal. There probably isn’t a single player on the American team that could’ve hit that ball as accurately as he did, let alone see the lane and attack it when he did.
Most all of the reasons Luiz gets bagged on are completely accurate. He does have severe concentration problems and relies too much on his speed and strength to get him out of jams caused by his frequently puzzling positioning and decision making. But he also is an elite passing defender in an era that prizes incisive forward passing.
The dominant attacking philosophies of our time—the possession game and counterattacking—coupled with the popularity of high defensive pressing mean intelligent and talented passers are required on basically every line of a team. A player like Luiz who can avoid pressure with his skills on the ball to buy time to make passes into the feet of the midfielders and attackers ahead of him is invaluable to his club’s goal scoring prospects. Luiz is also blessed with physical gifts that make him a sound defender when he remembers (or is reminded, usually by club and international teammate Thiago Silva) to defend, can stroke a free kick as well as anyone, and can play sensational balls forward like the one you see above.
David Luiz remains an undeniably flawed player, but never forget that he can be a damn good one, too.
Photo via Getty