David Luiz: After Fulham Win, Is the Brazilian Chelsea's Captain in Waiting?

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2013

David Luiz celebrates his wonder goal against Fulham.
David Luiz celebrates his wonder goal against Fulham.Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage on Wednesday, and the man at the heart of their winning performance was none other than David Luiz.

The Brazilian has earned a reputation for scoring elaborate goals during his time in the Premier League, but his strike on 30 minutes to open the scores in this West London derby was phenomenal.

Mark Schwarzer stood very little chance in the Fulham goal as Luiz's effort from 35 yards flew into the top corner to put Chelsea ahead in superb style. In the words of some, his shot quite literally stayed hit.

John Terry also found himself on the scoresheet, scoring twice to seal a much-needed win in the race for a top-four finish. But even a brace from the Chelsea captain failed to outshine Luiz's exploits.

This is a sign of the times at Stamford Bridge. This season, particularly since the arrival of Rafa Benitez, Luiz has begun to take center stage at Chelsea, with those before him starting to fade into the background.

Terry remains a fine talent, a player full of gusto and acumen who has carried the club in times of need. Yet Luiz is the modern breed of defender who fits the mould of the new Chelsea we are beginning to see, and his time has come.

Indeed, Terry was reinstated to the Chelsea lineup at Craven Cottage on Wednesday after missing Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinal. He wore the captain's armband with his usual aplomb, but the question must now be: For how much longer?

In the Englishman's absence through injury in the middle part of 2012-13, Luiz has come of age. The days of Gary Neville comparing him to a PlayStation defender seem long gone, and the Blues now have a player who has developed into one of Europe's leading talents.

For all the talk and criticism of his eagerness to get forward and join attacks, Luiz is now an equally able defender. With any player of his billing, there is always going to be potential for an erratic decision or performance along the way—it comes with the territory—however the Brazilian is now playing with a maturity that sets him apart.

Interestingly, it was two years ago on Valentine's Day 2011 against Chelsea's neighbors Fulham—shortly after Luiz had joined from Benfica—that we witnessed the best and worst of what he has to offer.

After a fantastic display full of his now celebrated whizz and verve, Luiz gave a needless penalty away late on after a clumsy challenge on Clint Dempsey. It was ill-advised, and although Dempsey saw his spot kick saved by Petr Cech to keep the game scoreless, it left a question mark over Luiz's ability to cut it at the highest level in England.

The contrast to his performance at Fulham in 2013 couldn't have been any greater. Luiz hardly put a foot wrong, and in the two years that have passed since his first visit to Craven Cottage, he is now delivering on the potential we all saw.

For that reason, Terry must be looking over his shoulder.