Say what you will about his playing ability, there are few players who have captured the imaginations of the Chelsea faithful over recent years than David Luiz.
Signed in January 2011 with Nemanja Matic going the other way (before he came back three years later) from Benfica for €25 million, he made his debut off the bench against Liverpool, making his first start the next game against West London rivals Fulham. He was named Man of The Match, despite conceding a penalty – arguably summing up his Chelsea career in a microcosm.
A centre back, Luiz became equally known for his marauding runs from deep as much as his defensive capabilities, with those runs often leaving his defensive partner (usually John Terry or Gary Cahill) with a herculean task to deny the opposition strikers. However, he started his Blues career strongly, and earned the Barclays Player of the Month and PFA Fans’ Player of the Month awards for March 2011, only his second full month of playing in England.
There was only one certainty whenever you saw Luiz’s name on the teamsheet – there were no certainties. You could never be sure which Luiz would turn up – the solid defender or a maverick midfielder that was frustrated inside of him. Either way, the Brazilian’s name was almost certainly on the lips of Chelsea fans after every game.
Even with his occasionally reckless – yet always swashbuckling – style of play, it could be guaranteed that Luiz would leave it all on the pitch. To follow him on Twitter, or read his updates on his Facebook page, it was clear he genuinely loved to play for Chelsea and put on a show for the fans, or as he affectionately called them, his ‘geezers’.
With a transfer to Paris Saint-Germain imminent, unusually for a centre back it will perhaps be his goals that will be missed by the club. It was his unstoppable strike that sealed our place in the Europa League final, thumping an effort in from 25 yards to make it 3-1 on the night, ensuring our passage to Amsterdam. He scored a similarly amazing effort a couple of weeks before against Fulham, unleashing a marvellous strike from easily 30 yards out to seal the three points.
Despite playing no part in the victory against Liverpool at Wembley, Luiz earned an FA Cup winners medal in his first full season at the club, the only major competition he did not score in for the Blues. He also started in the Champions League victory, putting in a solid display from centre back, as well as dispatching his penalty in that nerve-shredding shootout, complete with his now-trademark long run up.
It was the season after the team’s heroics in Munich where Luiz had started to be deployed in a holding midfield role, something that many Chelsea fans had called for over the pre-season. It was a move which offered Luiz the licence to roam as freely as he had done before, with a defender behind him to mop up should he lose the ball. Ironically enough, it was the much-maligned interim manager Rafael Benitez who gave Luiz this role which he appeared to relish. He picked up the Sliver Ball in the Club World Cup, the award given to the second best player of the tournament. He started the Europa League final in that deep-lying midfield role alongside stand-in captain Frank Lampard, producing another accomplished display when it mattered most, helping Chelsea claim the trophy with a win against the club they signed him from.
Anyone still left in doubt over Luiz’s credentials need not look further than his performances for his national side. Having his debut in 2010, he has since played 34 games for his country, and is currently vice captain. He led out the Seleção in 2012 for a friendly against South Africa. He also played a crucial role in his side’s success in the 2013 Confederations Cup, forming a formidable partnership with Thiago Silva at centre-back playing all their games. He made a sublime goal-line clearance in the final to keep the score at 1-0, somehow turning Pedro’s goal-bound effort over the crossbar. Brazil went on to stun Spain 3-0.
Luiz is set to become the most expensive defender in history when personal terms have been agreed with the French champions, with his move to the French capital expected to cost them €50 million. Whether or not he is worth such money is another argument for another day – what cannot be doubted however is that thanks to his tireless work ethic, affable nature and penchant for scoring unbelievable goals, ‘geezers’ the world over will miss him.