David Luiz now a cornerstone of Chelsea’s future
A myth has grown that when David Luiz signed for Chelsea on the final day of the January transfer window in 2011 it was solely the idea of the club’s owner Roman Abramovich.
That Luiz was imposed upon the club at the whim of the Russian billionaire. It’s not true. While Abramovich had driven the £50 million pursuit of Fernando Torres, almost goaded by Liverpool’s initial reluctance to sell, Luiz had been the No 1 target identified by the then Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti for that window.
It was Ancelotti who made the initial inquiries to Benfica about the Brazilian in the autumn; it was Ancelotti who tried to negotiate the Portuguese club down from their initial demands of €40 million (£34 million); and it was Ancelotti who told Abramovich that he felt the 24 year-old had the potential to become the best central defender in the world.
It was once Abramovich secured the signing of Torres that he okayed the final details on Luiz having balked at Benfica’s asking price and then haggled over the structure of the deal. In the end Luiz arrived for a fee of £25 million — including the fringe Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic — and made a mad-dash journey to England to finalise the move before the window closed.
But then much of Luiz’s style is at full pelt. A lot was made of Gary Neville’s disparaging dismissal of Luiz — after an erratic performance against Liverpool — that he performed like being controlled by a 10-year-old on a PlayStation console.
But that is Luiz’s style to an extent. He was the same at Benfica and while he has to learn greater defensive discipline — and is doing so — that desire to make dynamic interventions marks him out as much as his distinctive mop of curly hair.