It is often the little details, that extra touch of class, determination or skill that differentiates a good player from a great one. And having watched his progress from young prospect to first-team fixture in the three years since arriving at Portuguese heavyweights Benfica, the fans packing the Estadio da Luz would attest that Brazilian defender David Luiz falls into the latter category.
Still just 22, a potent mix of maturity, grit, versatility and verve has made him a darling of As Águias faithful who are enjoying one of the club’s finest seasons in years. A central defender by trade, David Luiz is equally adept at left-back, where his ability going forward and skill on the ball can come to the fore.
“There aren’t many secrets (to my success). To be worthy of wearing the Benfica shirt, we (the players) just have to respect the fans and the club,” he told FIFA.com.
“Age isn’t really a factor. You can seem young at 34 and mature at 20. For my age, I think I’ve found a good balance. I’ve grown up a lot since I came to Europe, I enjoy what I do and I’ve got a huge amount of respect for the club members and fans that cheer us on at the stadium every week.”
“A player has to realise that fans have the right to be demanding, and so we must give everything we've got, in every single game. Only then we can start talking about individual ability,” said David Luiz, who initially started out at Esporte Clube Vitoria, from Salvador in the Brazilian state of Bahia.
“I’m a central defender, and that’s the position I feel most comfortable in, but I’d play in goal or up front if I had to. I can only be grateful for having the privilege to do a job I love.”
Catching Dunga’s eye
An integral part of the Benfica defence, either at left-back or partnering Brazil international Luisao in the centre, only injury or suspension have prevented David Luiz lining up for As Águias’ this campaign. And despite having left his homeland at an early age, he remains optimistic of one day joining his club-mate in Dunga’s Seleção squad.
“Those in charge of the Brazilian national squad keep tabs on a lot of foreign-based players,” said the former Auriverde U-20 international. “Any player would like to line up for Brazil. But we (Brazilian players) know that there are an awful lot of good pros competing for places. Of course I work hard every day to perform for my club, and if I get the opportunity to pull on my country’s shirt I’ll grab it with both hands. But it’s still only a dream not an obsession.”
Though unlikely to make coach Dunga’s squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, given the proximity of this summer’s showpiece, Brazil 2014 will be in the back of the player’s mind. For now, however, David Luiz is fully focused on Benfica, who are still very much in the running for silverware in the Portuguese Liga Sagres, Portuguese League Cup and UEFA Europa League.
“We have to do our utmost to win those three competitions. Will it be hard to win all three? Definitely, but it’s our duty to give it our best shot,” said the centre-back as the interview drew to a close. Asked which of said trophies would give the fans the greatest satisfaction, the player said: “If I had to choose just one, I’d go for winning the league title. I think we owe it to our supporters to give them that to celebrate.”