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PHIL JAGIELKA tips David Luiz to become one of football’s great central defenders – after a spell in Chelsea’s midfield to enhance his adjustment to the English game.
The consensus is that Luiz is too much of a liability at the back, something with which Chelsea’s interim-manager Rafa Benitez clearly agrees.
But England and Everton player Jagielka, who made a successful transition from midfield to centre-back, believes that when Luiz adds maturity and experience to his all-round talents, he will make people change their opinion of him as a defender.
Jagielka, who is hoping to come face-to-face with Luiz when England take on Brazil at Wembley on Wednesday to mark the FA’s 150th anniversary, said: “Luiz is a fantastic player. He is probably one of the most technically gifted centre-halves I’ve seen in a long time.
“There are not many around who can use their right foot, left foot, dribble past opponents, score free-kicks and take penalties.
“If you wrote down his strengths you certainly wouldn’t put a tick next to a centre-back role.
“With the attributes he has, he will become one of the greats as a centre-half. But at the moment to stop him making the odd mistake, Chelsea have moved him up a position and are playing two centre-halves behind him, to give him a bit more freedom to go and express himself while he learns the game over here.
“I learnt my trade in the Championship with Sheffield United as a midfielder and then when I came up to the Premier League I moved back.
“Luiz has come from abroad and maybe the speed of the game here has caught him out a couple of times when he has played at the back.
“But it is a little bit harsh to say he hasn’t done well as a centre-half. It is just that he is still on that learning curve and the Premier League is a harsh environment to learn in.”
While Luiz, along with his Chelsea team-mates Ramires and Oscar, plus QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar, means the Brazilian squad will have plenty of familiar faces, their easy-on-the-eye style will not be so familiar to England’s new generation of players – the last time the countries met was in 2007.
Speaking at a Vauxhall dealership in Warrington during an appearance for the England lead sponsor, Jagielka said: “It will not only be a fantastic game for the fans to watch, but also for our squad to gain some experience against a team that will do the unexpected at times and be a very tough test.
“We need to sample South American opposition in the build-up to the World Cup finals. So it will be nice test to play them at Wembley, but also in the return friendly in Brazil in the summer.
“That’s a real ambition of mine to pay in the Maracana in Rio de Janiero.
“You want to play against the best teams in the world and when I was growing up Brazil were always up there.
“I’ve been fortunate to twice play against Spain, who have taken over as the greatest international team in the world. But facing Brazil will be fantastic.”
Jagielka’s 16 caps have been stretched over nearly four years since his debut. But John Terry’s retirement from international football and Roy Hodgson’s decision to overlook Rio Ferdinand means places are up for grabs.
At the age of 30 Jagielka knows time is running out for him to play in a major tournament. He was not picked by Fabio Capello for the 2010 World Cup and although a late call-up for Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad, he did not play.
“If I’m going to play in a World Cup it’s got to be the next one,” he added. “I don’t fancy my chances in five years time!
“The plan is to be on the flight to Brazil two summers running.”
Jagielka was speaking at Lookers Warrington at an event hosted by Vauxhall, the England Team sponsor. For more information go to www.vauxhallfootball.co.uk
PHIL JAGIELKA said he sympathised with John Heitinga’s frustration – after the Dutch defender endured a torrid afternoon during Everton’s draw with Aston Villa.
Injury problems prompted David Moyes to deploy Jagielka at right back on Saturday, while also keeping faith with Heitinga in central defence, but the Netherlands international went on to produce his worst display for the club since signing from Atletico Madrid in summer 2009.
Jagielka believes uncertainty over his place in the team could be the reason behind Heitinga’s period of poor form, and insisted he feels for his under-fire team-mate who has struggled to break into Everton’s starting central defence this season.
He said: “He’s bound to be down.
"We have all had one of those games when nothing seems to go right.
"In the end I think he’ll be thankful, like the rest of us, that we at least got a point.
“It’s difficult. He got player of the season last year and had a really strong second half of the season – especially with the cup run which meant he rightly got that award.
“But nobody is assured of their place in this team, and coming back to pre-season the manager obviously had ideas who he was and wasn’t going to play – and some people have done really well when they’ve got an opportunity, while some people haven’t had the opportunities they would have liked.
“It’s just the way football goes.
“I’m sure Johnny is frustrated that he is not getting the amount of games he would have liked.
“It’s hard not playing regularly.
"I didn’t enjoy not playing last season after I got injured and then wasn’t getting in the cup teams, so I know partially how he feels.”
Marouane Fellaini’s 93rd minute goal ensured a share of the spoils for Everton, and allowed them to remain in fifth place in the table but Jagielka admitted Moyes’ players were disappointed not to have recorded a consecutive home victory.
“We conceded so early and it was frustrating,” said Jagielka.
“But if you look at chances created I think they probably had three or four chances and scored three goals, while we were peppering their goal for 90 plus minutes.
"It wasn’t a flat performance, but it was annoying that we let them take their chances.
“A point wasn’t what we were aiming for at the out-set but historically it’s always been hard for us to beat Villa at Goodison.”