Returning Players: David Luiz

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Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Players’ series. In this edition, we take a look at David Luiz.

Luiz turned out for Chelsea for four years from 2011 and made a return to the club in 2016.

Returning Players – David Luiz

First Spell at Chelsea

David Luiz first joined Chelsea from Portuguese club Benfica in January 2011 for £25 million. News of the transfer created lots of hype and attention from Chelsea fans as Luiz was seen as a new type of centre-back, comfortable in possession and even able to play in midfield.

Luiz instantly became a cult hero at Stamford Bridge after putting in a man of the match performance in his first start for the Blues against local rivals Fulham. Luiz continued to perform, scoring his first goal to help his side beat Manchester United in the Premier League. His performances didn’t go unnoticed as he won the Premier League player of the month for March. Although Luiz did not win any major trophies during his first season with Chelsea, he had established himself into the starting team.

During his second season with the Blues, Luiz continued to develop. It was in this season where he truly cemented his place as a cult hero for Chelsea. Although Chelsea finished sixth in the league, Luiz was instrumental in both the FA Cup and Champions League victories. Luiz scored his first Champions League goal for Chelsea against Bayer Leverkusen, helping Chelsea to progress past the group stages. After a 3-1 loss in the first leg of the round-of-16 tie against Napoli, Chelsea looked as though they were heading out but a 4-1 victory in which Luiz was chosen by UEFA as the man of the match, meant they progressed to the quarter-finals.

Luiz and Chelsea faced his former side Benfica, who they beat 3-1 on aggregate over the two legs. Luiz was once again named UEFA man of the match in the first leg and looked set to start for Chelsea against Barcelona in the semi-finals. However, a muscular injury picked up against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-final meant he would miss both games and potentially the final.

Chelsea beat Barcelona and faced Bayern Munich in the final. Luiz was only half-fit but due to several suspensions to defenders, he started the game and played all 120 minutes. He also emphatically converted his penalty as Chelsea went on to win the Champions League for the first time.

In the next two seasons, Luiz started to make costly mistakes at the back, leading to him becoming more of a fringe member of the team. When Jose Mourinho re-joined the club in 2013, he saw Luiz as more of a defensive midfielder rather than a centre-back. Luiz played this role several times to great effect but it was not enough to convince Mourinho to keep him.

Teams that David Luiz Played for in Between

In June 2014, Luiz joined Paris Saint-Germain for £50 million – a world record fee for a defender at the time. He made his debut in a 2-0 victory over Bastia and scored his first goal in a 3-2 win over Barcelona in the Champions League group stage.

In March 2015, Luiz faced former side Chelsea in the round-of-16 of the Champions League. Luiz scored in a 2-2 draw that saw the Parisian side defeat his former club. He celebrated enthusiastically, which he later apologised for.

Much like his time in England, PSG fans recognised Luiz’s great attacking talents, but his defensive frailties were still there for all to see. In the quarter-finals of the Champions League, PSG and Luiz lost 3-1 to Barcelona in the first leg. Luiz was at fault for two of the goals, needlessly diving in, allowing Luis Suarez to score as PSG were knocked out.

Despite this Luz won the domestic treble in his first season at PSG and was even named in the FIFA World Team of the Year.

Return To Chelsea

After two years in Paris, Luiz returned to west London for a sum of £34 million. He fit back into the squad almost immediately, winning the Premier League in his first season under Antonio Conte. Conte’s choice to play a 3-4-3 formation helped Luiz massively. His frailty in defence was helped by having Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill next to him, while his passing ability allowed him to control the tempo of games from the back. Luiz was named in the 2016/17 PFA team of the year, capping a stellar season for Luiz

The next season was a more disrupted one. Injury and rumours of fall out with the manager meant Luiz missed the majority of the season. Chelsea won the FA cup, but Luiz did not feature.

In 2018, Maurizio Sarri became Chelsea manager and took a liking to Luiz. Although defensive mistakes still occurred, Luiz still had a great final season for the Blues. This culminated in a 4-1 Europa League final victory over Arsenal, with Luiz winning his sixth major trophy with Chelsea.

Although there were ups and downs in Luiz’s Chelsea career, the Brazilian won almost every trophy possible and undoubtedly goes down as a cult hero of the Bridge.

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