Ever since the Premier League restarted after the COVID lockdown in 2020, Brazilian midfielder Douglas Luiz has been one of Aston Villa’s best performers.
On course to reach a century of Villa appearances before this season’s out, Luiz rapidly evolved into one of Smith’s first names on the team sheet.
A capped Brazilian international, former U23’s captain of the national side, and an Olympic gold medalist, Douglas Luiz took a different route to the top than most of his teammates.
Luiz grew up in the Nova Holanda favela, in Rio.
An area with a growing reputation; one of deadly crime and violence, diluted with the flair and extravagance of Brazilian football – born from the many pitches crammed into the neighbourhood.
It was on these patches of opportunity, that Luiz earned his chance, and was spotted by a local scout for Vasco da Gama.
Although being only 14 at the time, Luiz arrived onto the professional footballing scene far later than most other Premier League footballers –former Villa skipper Jack Grealish had already been on the books at Bodymoor for eight years!
However, despite his late coming, Luiz rapidly developed into one of Vasco’s best academy prospects.
Three years on from the scout’s initial observation, Luiz was promoted to the first team in the midst of an injury crisis. Only a few weeks he was brought on as a second-half substitute in the Brazilian second tier.
After impressing manager Jorginho in his first professional appearance, 72 hours later, Luiz was awarded his first start. Unable to prevent his team from losing the match, Luiz still managed to score – alerting people of his special talent.
Luiz went on to establish himself as a regular starter for the side that season and helped them gain promotion in 2016 to the Brasileirão, the top flight of Brazilian football.
Despite departing his nations top division in July 2017, Luiz took more with him as he joined Manchester City than he left behind. The player once that favella football is ‘actually a very physical game, very similar to the Premier League’.
Luiz was signed by Pep Guardiola for Manchester City in 2017, after the Catalonians first season managing the club.
For a sum of around £10 million, and signed to a five-year contract, City planned to develop the Brazilian further in La Liga by loaning him out to partner club Girona FC.
In his breakthrough season in Europe, Luiz helped guide the club to a respectable 10th placed finish in the Spanish topflight.
Deployed as a rotational player, Luiz made 13 appearances across all competitions.
The long-term vision of Guardiola was for Luiz to be brought back to Manchester in the summer of 2018 and to begin life as a first-team player in the City squad. For the first few weeks of that summers training camp, everything went as planned.
Training alongside fellow midfield compatriots Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, proved beneficial as Luiz impressed the manager playing in the citizens preseason tour of the USA.
However, a failed attempt to secure a work permit meant that Luiz was unable to play for Manchester City in the 2018/19 season.
This was a major blow for all involved as Luiz had been firmly implemented in City’s plans to feature throughout their Premier League title defence.
Due to the unforeseen setback, the Brazilian was once more loaned out to Girona where he played 29 more times for the Spanish side.
Unfortunately, Girona’s season ended in relegation and Luiz packed his bags and departed for Manchester again.
Arriving in Aston
On the 25th July 2019, after promotion to the Premier League, Villa announced the signing of Douglas Luiz (subject to a work permit) at a cost of £15 million from Manchester City. The deal included a buy-back clause inserted by the City chiefs meaning they had the option to automatically re-sign Luiz at any point until summer 2021.
The previous stumbling block caused by the permit was evaded, and Luiz was officially a Villa player by the 7th of August– three days before debuting for the Villans.
After it was worryingly revealed that Luiz “couldn’t understand a word of English” in the first half of this season, Villa managed to survive on the final day of the elongated campaign.
Luiz has since proclaimed that the enforced break allowed him time to focus on his English lessons, and “study more on the aspects I found most difficult”.
Amassing 33 appearances in the league last season, Luiz became a reliable cog in Villa’s midfield. His efforts in almost propelling Villa into the European places rewarded him with selection for Brazil’s Copa America campaign, and a place in the Olympic squad. Finishing runner up to club teammate Emi Martinez in the Copa America was swiftly forgotten when Luiz won Gold at Tokyo 2020.
Nowadays, Douglas Luiz is a Villa player at the heart of the club’s European quest. With the threat of Manchester City swooping in for him now expired, Luiz can be at the forefront to the manager’s plans as he’d like.
Despite competition brewing for a place in the XI (accelerated by the rise of Chukwuemeka, and the Ramsey brothers), Luiz is visibly missed in his rare absences.
Still only 23 years old, the future of Brazilian football belongs to Aston Villa!