There was yet more misery for Paris Saint-Germain defender David Luiz as Barcelona eased to a 2-0 win at the Camp Nou in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second-leg on Tuesday, giving the Blaugrana a 5-1 aggregate win over the course of two games against the French champ.
Luiz was caught flat-footed early in the first half as Barca midfielder Andres Iniesta raced towards him (after beating four players), and then slid the ball into the path of Neymar, who rounded Salvatore Sirigu before slotting into an empty net. Later, the PSG center-back lost his Brazil teammate again as Dani Alves floated a beautiful ball into the box, which Neymar duly headed home.
And so, once again, the 50 million-pound ($75 million) defender is being absolutely eviscerated in the press for another terrible performance in the center of defense.
Last week, when a heavy-legged and probably still injured Luiz was nutmegged twice by Luis Suarez en route to a famous brace from the Uruguayan striker, Off The Post tried to deflect some of the criticism leveled at the former Chelsea man by pointing out that PSG had played really poorly as a team.
While a similar case could be about Tuesday (how bad was Edinson Cavani?), it’s getting harder and harder to defend the Brazilian’s (defensive) performances. Why, because some of them, which includes the two Barca games as well as that awful 7-1 thrashing of Brazil by Germany at the World Cup last summer, are memorably bad performances.
As former Manchester United right-back and current TV pundit Gary Neville famously said of Luiz: when you watch him play, it’s as if he was being “controlled by a 10-year-old in the crowd on a Playstation.”
The criticism gets worse, too.
Roy Keane, another former Manchester United player turned TV pundit, said following Tuesday’s game: "I actually feel sorry for him. He just looks lost again; we spoke about him before the game. He doesn't smell danger and the stuff there is literally schoolboy stuff. You've got to give the boy sympathy, a little bit. Because he doesn't look like he knows what he's doing."
Which brings us to our question of the day: is David Luiz a bad player?
Having watched the Sideshow Bob lookalike play various positions during his three years at Chelsea, OTP would have to say no, David Luiz is not a bad player. He’s just an awful central defender.
Comfortable in possession, a decent passer with good vision, capable of David Beckham-like raking long balls, Luiz also has a thunderous shot on him. Defensively, he is capable of a good tackle or two -- but that’s about it. His spatial awareness and man-marking abilities are, simply put, not good enough, mostly because he’s prone to lapses in concentration. He also lacks patience, which causes him to gamble, or dive-in, which is not what you want from a last defender.
How this guy ever became a center-back is anyone’s guess. And how the likes of PSG’s Laurent Blanc or Brazil’s former coach Luiz Felipe Scolari didn’t get the memo that he shouldn’t play there is beyond OTP.
During his half-year as Chelsea coach, Rafael Benitez introduced the idea of playing the Brazilian as a holding midfielder, a decision that worked wonders for the Blues during the 2012-13 season as they ultimately took home the Europa League title, with Luiz playing a big part.
Jose Mourinho, whom few would deny is a masterful defensive tactician, also used him (albeit less frequently) in a similar role, almost never deploying him as a centerback. Of course, the following season, Mourinho saw fit to sell the player to PSG for 50 million pounds. On Tuesday’s evidence, the Blues came out much the better on that deal.