Munich - VfL Wolfsburg's signing of Luiz Gustavo from FC Bayern München was certainly one of the most eye-catching late-summer Bundesliga transfers. It could well prove one of the most successful as well, with the gifted 26-year-old making an assured start in Lower Saxony and confident the move will pay off for him, both for club and country.
Crunch-time for Brazil
Acknowledging that the weeks leading up it had been "the most difficult of my life”,Gustavo explained that a variety of factors had influenced his decision - the "very good project" underway at Wolfsburg, the "new philosophy under a new coach [Dieter Hecking]," the club's persistence in their pursuit of him and, not least, the fact that he and his family are now so well-settled in Germany, as "Luiz isn't just Luiz alone”.
Another undeniable aspect to the switch was the likelihood of regular first-team football. That's the ideal for any professional, of course, but in this case there is the added incentive of a national team place at next summer's FIFA World Cup finals at stake - and in his home country, for good measure. Gustavo made no bones about the fact that, revealing that discussions with his situation with Brazil coach Felipe Luis Scolari had played a part in his choice to move to the Volkswagen Arena. "He spoke his mind, and that helped me finalise my decision."
Scolari, who led Brazil to victory at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea/Japan, defeating Germany 2-0 in the final, is tasked with repeating the feat on home turf in 2014. The five-time champions have only ever hosted the tournament once before, losing out to Uruguay back in 1950. The pressure on the team to succeed this time around is, in the ultimate football-crazy nation, therefore immense, and the head coach has evidently penned in Gustavo for a key role in their attempt.
International star on the rise
The new Wolfsburg star featured from start to finish in every game during Brazil's June march to victory in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, which saw them comfortably dispatch world and European champions Spain 3-0 in the final at Rio de Janeiro’s famous Estádio do Maracanã. He also played the full 90 minutes in recent friendly wins against Australia (6-0) and Portugal (3-1), rounding off the scoring in the rout of the Socceroos with his first international goal and underlining in both matches just how significant a player he is becoming to this current Brazil side.
All of which notwithstanding, Gustavo is under no illusion that his form in the Bundesliga between now and next May will be a defining factor in Scolari's assessment of his best starting XI next summer. On that front, the hard-tackling midfielder with the cultured and potentially deadly left foot got off to the best possible start with his new employers, debuting in a 4-0 thumping of FC Schalke 04.
Team player to the hilt
Afterwards, he played down his impressively swift integration into the side, saying, "I'm a straightforward guy and know what I can do. But my teammates made it very easy for me as well." His evenly-balanced on-field persona was evident off the pitch as well when asked about the possibility of forming a new VfL axis with compatriots Naldo and a Diego. "Whether we’re Brazilian or not is irrelevant. We have a lot of good players and we need to operate as a unit. I can't achieve anything on my own either. It's all about the team."
It is now six years since Luiz Gustavo arrived in Germany, joining 1899 Hoffenheim on an initial loan deal from SC Corinthians Alagoano. Freshly turned 20 and still something of a raw diamond, he made impressive progress at the club from the South West, and FC Bayern swooped to purchase him at the start of 2011. Over the following two-and-a-half seasons, he racked up 64 top-flight outings for the Munich Reds and, despite never being one of the core first-team regulars, consistently delivered the goods when selected. Playmaker Diego, for one, is in no doubt as to what Wolfsburg have landed with the signing of his countryman: "Luiz is a gift. We need players like him."