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David Luiz to Barcelona makes sense, but not for Chelsea


Chelsea’s Brazilian defender David Luiz (R) celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Fulham and Chelsea at Craven Cottage in west London, on April 17, 2013. AFP PHOTO/OLLY GREENWOOD “ RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or “live” services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. ” (Photo credit should read OLLY GREENWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

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This would be a very bad move, but the whispers of David Luiz’s potential exist from Chelsea have transcended the spurious sources and have begun surfacing in legitimate ones - the type of momentum you often see in deals that end up actually happening. What’s worse, there is a certain logic behind the deal that justifies the sale, no matter what you think of Luiz’s talents.

The general rumor goes something like this: Barcelona desperately needs some more defensive depth, and Luiz would be a perfect fit. Technically, he has the skill to play in possession-heavy scheme, while stylistically, his ability on the ball when put to slotted to Gerard Piqué's left will only promote Barça’s brand of soccer. And while defenders with that type of profile are usually hard to come by (especially after a club like Chelsea has their claws on them), the transition at Stamford Bridge may lead to Luiz’s departure, especially if the Brazilian international could fetch around $50 million on the transfer market. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that Barcelona is one of the few teams in the world Luiz might actually want to leave Chelsea to join.

José Mourinho, returning to Chelsea soon, didn’t sign David Luiz. He doesn’t have any allegiance to him, and when you look through Mourinho’s coaching history for center halves with a similar approach, it’s hard to find many Luiz analogs. Sergio Ramos is the closest one in talent, but in application, Ramos played nothing like Luiz, a player whose cavalier approach to central defense rankles the sensibilities of a soccer culture that just realized David de Gea is not the goalkeeping anti-christ.

Mourinho might not even see Luiz as a defender at all. Like others, he might see Luiz as a midfielder, overlooking the wandering positioning and complete naivete for the position to see a talent who can slot in right away at the highest levels. On pure athleticism alone, Luiz can play central midfield, and with his ability on the ball, it’s tempting to cast him in more of an attacking part. But Luiz still plays the position like somebody who’s learning on the job, something that shouldn’t be happening at Chelsea’s levels.

So let’s put all the pieces together. Luiz, potentially an acquired taste in central defense, is in a squad that also has John Terry, Gary Cahill, and Branislav Ivanovic. Two of those players are familiar to a new regime who may have very specific ideas of what a center half should (and should not) be. With the club needing help in multiple other places (central midfield, attack), this young defender could help finance multiple other acquisitions. And, since many of the supporters might share new management’s view of what a center half should (and should not) be, the player could be sold without much uproar.

Now you can see why this idea’s escalated from tabloid fodder to undying rumor. It actually, if perversely, kind of make sense.

There is, however, one problem from a Chelsea perspective. David Luiz is a really, really good player, especially in central defense. He may not be as good as his advocates claim, and he’s certainly nowhere near as bad as Playstation enthusiasts imagine, but among the world’s central defenders, he ranks among the elite. He’s far from perfect by traditional standards (which is why traditional analysts don’t like him), but between speed and athleticism that allow him to match strikers one-on-one and skills going forward that make up for his decreasing mental mistakes, he remains a rare talent. For a team like Chelsea, one that wants to compete for every competition they enter, he’s a level of player you’d want at every position - a player you shouldn’t let go merely to fill a war chest.

If José Mourinho agrees, Luiz will either stay at Stamford Bridge or, if these rumors are agent-fueled, force a move to the Nou Camp. But if the rumors are one hundred percent correct and this move is being pushed by Chelsea, then Mourinho obviously ascribes to the conventional view. Luiz, in his mind, may be too error prone to be a defender, and with his value still high in the eyes of Barcelona, the Brazilian’s an ideal player to sell.