David Luiz the Midfielder: Could Chelsea Star Play There for Brazil?

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David Luiz the Midfielder: Could Chelsea Star Play There for Brazil?
Lee Jin-man/Associated Press

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has one more international friendly before he must name his final World Cup squad. On March 5, the Selecao Brasileira take on South Africa in Johannesburg.

Whilst being a final opportunity to test players he may wish to include in his World Cup mission, Scolari will also have the chance to tinker with those who have already booked their place in the squad.

One area of experimentation could be Chelsea centre-half David Luiz. He has partnered with Thiago Silva ably and helped Brazil to the Confederations Cup title in June.

But he has proven, at club level at least, that he is also adept at playing in a central midfield role. "Interim" Chelsea coach Rafa Benitez was the first in Europe to play him in the position—he had, in fact, started his career there at Brazilian club Vitoria—and his comfort and confidence on the ball were evident.

He is prone to lung-bursting runs forward and has a keen eye for goal. His winning strike against Manchester United during his first half-season in English football was struck as sweetly as you are likely to see.

Big Phil himself, at the beginning of his second reign as national team coach, admitted he could use Luiz in a midfield role, as reported by Sambafoot.

"He has this ability [to play in midfield] and it gives us an alternative," he said.

Since the start of Scolari's reign at the end of 2012, Luiz has gone on to cement his place in both the Chelsea and Brazil starting line-ups.

But with the Yellow Submarine in such excellent form since their morale-boosting Confederations Cup triumph last year, does there remain a real need to rock the boat?

Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press
David Luiz blocks Pedro's goalbound effort during the Confederations Cup final with the score at 1-0. Brazil went on to beat Spain 3-0

It has been acknowledged on these pages the benefits Luiz can bring to a midfield. But in the current set-up, Scolari has found the right blend at the defensive end of the field.

It is further forward, in attack, where he is more likely to chop and change.

In addition, Brazil's tactical approach this summer should necessitate someone of Luiz's standing at the back. Hosts of the tournament and one of the favourites, Brazil will likely be up against teams trying to shut them out, at least during the opening games.

That means at times they will be forced to push forward en masse, leaving them susceptible to the counter-attack. Luiz is blessed with pace, more so than his international defensive partner Thiago Silva, and will better serve the team as the last line of defence rather than in the middle trying to build attacks.

In truth, the 26-year-old has only ever played for one sustained period in midfield. It came at the end of 2012, a time when Chelsea were seriously depleted in that area.

Petr David Josek/Associated Press
David Luiz has played as a midfielder for Chelsea, but only for one sustained period of time

But Scolari's options are varied. His current preference is for a pairing of Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho, and they have given him no motive to change his mind.

Waiting in the wings are Tottenham's Sandro and Liverpool's Lucas Leiva, who have both been used in the holding midfield berth. The latter may even be given a starting role against South Africa to prove his international worth.

David Luiz can be a good midfielder, but utilising him there would ignore the fact he is already a top-class central defender. His career at Chelsea has blossomed and he has cut out the reckless errors of his early time in London.

To play Luiz in midfield at the World Cup would be an unnecessary risk given the options Scolari has available. What he needs is someone to put his body on the line when the cause seems lost.

And anyone who saw Luiz's last-ditch dive to prevent Pedro equalising in the Confederations Cup final will testify he is up to that task.

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