Luiz Gustavo: The Brazilian gem that’s been overlooked

Luiz Gustavo has fallen down the pecking order at Bayern Munich but given his undeniable quality, he could be a bargain for another big club. Brendon Netto discusses..
 Brendon Netto
 COMMENT | Premier League
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Luiz Gustavo has developed into one of the best defensive midfielders in the game. He just enjoyed a hugely successful season, certainly the best of his career, which yielded four trophies with Bayern Munich, including the Champions League, and a Confederations Cup triumph with Brazil.

At 26, he’s entering the best years of his career and given that he’s thought to be surplus to requirements in a criminally good Bayern midfield, you’d think some of the best clubs in Europe are lining up for his signature, right? Wrong.

In actual fact, the only club that has confirmed their pursuit of Gustavo is Bundesliga side, Wolfsburg. With Tottenham Hotspur snapping up his central midfield partner in the national team, Paulinho it’s bewildering that none of the more ambitious sides in Europe have made serious moves for the Bayern midfield enforcer.

Gustavo added the Confederations Cup trophy to his silverware with Bayern

Gustavo is renowned for his tracking back and tackling. He shields the back four expertly and provides the rest of the midfield insurance to get forward. He excels at breaking up the opposition’s attacks and works hard in the middle of the park. He doesn’t get forward too often but when he does, a sweet left foot means he’s capable of unleashing powerful shots from range.

Looking around Europe, it’s evident that most of the best teams are set in the midfield department but there certainly is room for improvement in some of the high-profile sides in the Serie A and Premier League.

Rafa Benitez has been eager to use the money garnered from Edinson Cavani’s sale to strengthen Napoli in order to challenge Juventus for the Scudetto. He’s already made some stellar signings in Jose Callejon, Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol and Pepe Reina (on loan) but recruiting Gustavo would give the midfield a big lift, the one area in which he hasn’t brought in reinforcements.

Meanwhile, AC Milan are looking to launch a title charge of their own. They look set to sign attacking midfielder Keisuke Honda in January but bringing in Gustavo now would certainly be an improvement from Nigel de Jong or Antonio Nocerino in a deeper midfield role.

Gustavo is a great ball winner and could be a vital player for a top team

Over in the England, Manchester United are busy scrambling for a midfielder and although they’re targeting a creative one, they’ve also been linked with Marouane Fellaini and in that case, perhaps Gustavo deserves consideration as well. Arsenal have also been linked with the Everton player and you’d think the Bayern midfielder may be a feasible option for them especially considering the fitness worries of Abou Diaby and inexperience of Emmanuel Frimpong.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, John Obi Mikel has been accused of not contributing enough to Chelsea’s midfield and with age catching up with Frank Lampard and Michael Essien, there is a shortage of central midfielders at Stamford Bridge. Marko van Ginkel is still young and more of a distributor while Ramires offers plenty of energy and drive but Gustavo could be an effective holding midfielder for the Blues on a regular basis.

At Liverpool, Lucas Leiva hasn’t fully recovered from a long injury lay-off yet and the team have missed the job he used to do for them when he was at his best. Jordan Henderson is an option but can’t be compared to the quality and experience Gustavo would bring. With the number of creative players they have in attack, Gustavo would help provide them with a platform to get forward and express themselves.

He offers more than just his defensive attributes

Of course, the prospect of him playing at any of the teams mentioned above are purely speculative, but it gives you a fundamental idea of what he has to offer and how he could fit in at some of the best clubs. Given the embarrassment of riches at Bayern Munich, what’s considered dispensable to them could well be a treasure to someone else.

With the World Cup next summer, a move would benefit Gustavo as well with regard to getting regular game time. However, clubs haven’t been forthcoming in an effort to sign him and perhaps that’s due to his relatively low profile. It’s easy to be overshadowed when you have the likes of Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery for teammates at Bayern or Neymar, Oscar and Hulk at international level.

He doesn’t score a lot of goals but he has the ability to carry the ball forward and his distribution is excellent for someone who is primarily concerned with breaking up play and feeding the more adept passers. Apart from his attributes on the pitch, it seems as though he isn’t given credit for the wealth of experience he’s gained at Bayern.

His experiences at Bayern, good and bad, are invaluable

Gustavo is now at the age where he can begin to be a leader on the pitch and a senior figure within a squad. In the last three seasons at the Allianz Arena, he experienced the agony of being within touching distance of trophies only to have it ruthlessly torn away from his reach and he also enjoyed the exhilaration of tasting ultimate glory. He’s suffered defeat and relished victory on the biggest stage and that’s something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

If Gustavo fails to attract a suitable suitor this summer, he may be condemned to spending most of next season on an illustrious Bayern bench. While there’s certainly no shame in that since he’d still be rubbing shoulders with quality players from his seat, it would be a tragic waste of his talent.

Who do you think should sign Gustavo? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.

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