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The five steps David Luiz took to become a £20m Chelsea star

Chelsea bolstered their squad with two huge signings on transfer deadline day, and while most people know all about Fernando Torres, who broke the British transfer record, not much is known about David Luiz, the £21.4 million Brazilian centre-back.

Here are the five main steps that brought Luiz to Chelsea, chronicling his career from a young player in the Brazilian domestic league all the way to England and signing for the Premier League champions.

The pre-Benfica years

David Luiz started out at São Paulo’s youth ranks, where he stayed for five years until he was 14-years-old. Initially an attacking midfielder, Luiz was released from the club for being considered too short for the game. He then moved to Vitoria, where he was deployed as a defensive midfielder in his first years, also without much success.

After failing to impress, Luiz was very close to being released from the club on two occasions, but coach Joao Paulo Sampaio decided to use him as a centre-back. He had his senior debut for the club in 2005, but it would be only one year later that he would impose himself at the club, whom he helped to Serie B. In January 2007, he was loaned out to Benfica for six months to fill in the boots of Tottenham-bound Ricardo Rocha.

Benfica debut and meagre first three seasons


The Brazilian defender had a disastrous debut for Benfica, coming on as a first-half substitute for compatriot Luisao in the Uefa Cup match against PSG. The Eagles were winning the match 1-0 by the time David Luiz stepped onto the pitch, but they ended up losing 2-1.

“Unfortunately, I could not have the debut I wanted,” he said after the game. He remained part of the coach’s plans for the rest of the season, though, playing a total of 14 matches to earn himself a permanent move to Benfica in the summer.

However, his next two years were largely disappointing, as a serious foot injury restricted him to just 13 appearances in the 2007/08 season. In the following year, he was frequently used by coach Quique Flores, but the Spaniard’s insistence on deploying him on the left prevented him from showing his true potential.

Dream campaign

Under coach Jorge Jesus, David Luiz enjoyed a terrific 2009/10 season in which he formed a solid partnership with Luisao at the heart of Benfica’s defence. He made 49 appearances for the club, missing just two games through suspension, and scored four goals in all competitions as the Eagles won the Portuguese League and the League Cup. Luiz quickly became a fan’s favourite at the Estadio da Luz and his performances earned him the nickname ‘Sheriff’ and the accolade for Portuguese League Footballer of the Year by the local Sports Journalists Association.


Nobody shoots the 'Sheriff' | Brazilian was a rock for Benfica last season

Brazil debut

Luiz’s feats with Benfica did not go unnoticed in his homeland as, after a disastrous World Cup in South Africa, new Brazil boss Mano Menezes saw the need to operate a complete revolution. Luiz had already represented his country at the 2007 Fifa Under-20 World Cup, where he got suspended for four matches after elbowing a South Korean player, but his first match for the main squad came only at the age of 23. In a friendly match against the United States in August, Luiz had a convincing debut for Brazil beside Thiago Silva, and he appears set to cement his place next to the AC Milan player in the Selecao’s defence.

Interest increases, but so does criticism

With a £42m release clause attached to his contract, Luiz attracted a horde of suitors in the summer transfer window, with Chelsea and Manchester City both reported to be very keen on his services. However, the Citizens alleged £27m offer was not enough to persuade Benfica to part with their prized asset.

During the first half of the season, Luiz could not replicate the form that had seen him shine in the previous year, which – combined with him rejecting Benfica’s offer of a new deal in November – made fans begin to question whether his heart was still with the club. The defender always remained quiet on his future and never publicly expressed his wish for a bigger challenge, which would come knocking on the last day of the transfer window after a prolonged saga between Chelsea and Benfica.

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