With an FC Barcelona team that boasts immense talents like Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique and Neymar, it is hard to pin-point any weaknesses. Most teams around Europe would do anything to have even one of these players, and these names, excluding Neymar, helped Barcelona win every major competition in Spain and Europe over the past five seasons. The attack can’t do it all, however, and if the reoccurring rumors are true, Chelsea‘s David Luiz could be the next big name swapping England for Spain this summer.
It seems to me that with all of the attacking options Barcelona has at its disposal, it is either hiding, or unwilling to admit, that it has one area of weakness: the center of defense. Pique has been instrumental in the team’s success since he returned to his boyhood club from Manchester United back in 2008, and his partnership with fellow Barca legend Carles Puyol will go down as one of the best center back pairings in history. But the problem is that these two have not been playing together regularly.
Puyol has struggled with injuries over the past few years, and the defender known for his giant mane of hair featured in only 22 matches last season and 10 this season. Despite being one of Barcelona’s most reliable players while on the field, the team has always struggled when he is absent. Former manager Josep Guardiola and current boss Tata Martino have not had other reliable center backs to call upon to fill in for Puyol, and the unpredictable duo of Alex Song and Javier Mascherano in the defense have cost Barca in big games.
Luiz, although a bit unpredictable himself, fits the Barcelona mold to a T, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he has near identical hair to Puyol. Team sheets list Luiz as a defender on paper, but the Brazilian international is an attacking player at heart, and loves nothing more than to get forward and help out in the attack. Barca is a team that is famed for its tiki-taka style of play, and nearly every player on the field is involved in both attacking and defending. With Pique a little more conservative than Luiz, albeit only slightly, the Brazilian would have license to break forward and spring counter attacks out of defense.
Always willing to run and work hard for the team, Luiz’s aggressive tackling and pit bull like mentality would see him carry out Barcelona’s high pressing system effortlessly, allowing the rest of the team to regain possession quickly in dangerous areas. With Barca engaged in a three way tie for first place with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in Spain’s La Liga, the defense will either make or break the season.
The deal seems to be mutually beneficial to both Barcelona and Chelsea, and the Blues seem ready to move on from Luiz and collect a tidy transfer sum at the same time. Defensive mastermind Jose Mourinho has left Luiz out of the heart of the Chelsea defense as of late, and England international Gary Cahill has made the spot his own next to John Terry. Preferred in front of the center backs, Luiz has been playing a defensive midfield role for Chelsea, where he has utilized his energy to become an unorthodox box-to-box midfielder.
Whether Chelsea and Mourinho are actually willing to let Luiz go remains to be seen, but he is surely the missing link to Barcelona’s already near perfect puzzle. Chances are, Luiz will lead the Brazilian National Team to glory in this summer’s World Cup, and if Chelsea can find an adequate replacement, Barca may have to make its next acquisition the Sideshow Bob lookalike.