Take yourself back to Sunday evening at the Stade Louis II, it is the 62nd minute and PSG are losing at AS Monaco. The number 32 lights up the fourth official’s board and David Luiz makes his way off the field; his body language is negative, his facial expression is one of disappointment and frustration. The world’s most expensive defender (on collective transfer fees) has had a game to forget in which he needlessly conceded a first half penalty that put the Ligue 1 champions 2-0 down against their title rivals.
Rather than seeing the game through, he was replaced by Thomas Meunier- a right back. The change enabled Serge Aurier to move into the centre to partner academy graduate Presnel Kimpembe resulting in PSG opting for 2 right backs and the young and untried Kimpembe over the £50 million Brazilian.
Ironically, Luiz had mindlessly conceded a penalty against Les Monegasques back in March at the Parc des Princes due to some careless possession in front of Kevin Trapp’s goal and PSG lost 2-0.
But that was then and this is now, the difference this time is that Unai Emery is in charge of the French champions and if reports are to be believed, the Basque tactician favours a central defensive partnership of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos.
Whilst this is yet to be confirmed, due to Silva nursing an injury picked up on the pre-season tour of the USA and Marquinhos recently away at the Olympics with Brazil, the ex-Benfica man cut a forlorn figure as he watched the remainder of the game from the bench wondering what the season ahead held for him.
What was to follow just 72 hours later was one of the most surprising deals of the summer transfer window when the Brazilian’s former club Chelsea lodged a bid in excess of £30 million for the defender with just 24 hours of the transfer window left.
Usually deals of this type for players of his calibre can take days, even weeks to complete but this was as smooth as a business deal gets. Luiz expressed his desire to go, the PSG hierarchy of Nasser Al Khelaifi, Patrick Kluivert and Olivier Letang sanctioned the move and the fee was agreed, initiating that Luiz maybe was no longer a key figure in the PSG project. There were no lengthy negotiations and Luiz was free to board the Eurostar to London for his medical.
For PSG, this deal didn’t just make sense, it was the deal of the century. This is a player who turns 30 next April and who has been unable to shrug off his erratic style since crossing the channel. Luiz seemingly would be the third choice centre back for the coming season, therefore a deal in excess of £30 million was too good to turn down for a player who would have had very little sell-on value had he seen out his contract in Paris.
David Luiz signed for PSG from Chelsea in June 2014 in a deal that raised many eyebrows mainly for the fee rather than the transfer between the clubs. Whilst Luiz had his unreliable moments in the Premier League this did not deter Laurent Blanc from spending the bulk of PSG’s financial fair-play money on the Brazilian.
They say ‘timing is everything’ and within four weeks of Luiz’s move to Paris, he captained Brazil in the world cup semi-final against Germany at the Maracana in Rio de Janiero. This was a game that changed the public perception on Luiz as he was widely criticised for his performance and was blamed for many of Germany’s goals in Brazil’s 7-1 defeat.
Since then he has had to work to restore his reputation amongst fans, and the media as he has often bore the brunt of many jokes and had his abilities as a defender severely questioned. Unfortunately David Luiz has done little to improve his standing with a number of gaffes in the rouge et bleu that either stem from a nonchalant style or a lack of concentration.
It would be unfair to suggest that all has been bad for Luiz in Paris, it hasn’t. Occasionally he delivered some solid performances alongside Thiago Silva in Ligue 1 and helped PSG to a historic and unprecedented domestic quadruple in 2015, which was repeated in 2016. His finest moment in a PSG shirt undoubtedly was the late headed equaliser in normal time when PSG overcame his former club Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in March 2015.
Surprisingly, Luiz was rarely used in other roles within the team. In his first stint in West London he was occasionally deployed in a deep midfield role and at times he looked more effective there when protecting his back four and away from the last line of defence. Laurent Blanc was aware of this but felt Luiz was more suited to the centre back role thus keeping out his very talented compatriot Marquinhos – a player who will benefit hugely from the David Luiz sale.
For Chelsea the deal for Luiz is a good one even though it is questionable whether he is returning a better player than when he left. Although he was not Antonio Conte’s first, second or third choice signing, he is acquiring an experienced international.
A player who knows the club, the league, the language and many of his teammates were there during his first spell at Stamford Bridge. There will be no settling in period needed for Luiz and Chelsea will expect him to hit the ground running after the international break.
Conte will be confident of eradicating blunders from his game and with the excellent N’Golo Kante offering protection to an aging back line this is a move that could once again show the best of the charismatic Brazilian.