Chelsea’s summer-long pursuit of defensive reinforcements prompted an outlay close to £60m on transfer deadline day, with the eye-catching return of David Luiz from Paris Saint-Germain complementing Marcos Alonso’s arrival from Fiorentina.
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Antonio Conte, exasperated at seeing interest in players such as Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Alessio Romagnoli of Milan rejected, gave the green light to the return of David Luiz for £34m, with further fees due in future, after it emerged the Brazil international had become unsettled at PSG. The centre-half was expecting to find himself demoted behind his compatriots Marquinhos and Thiago Silva at Parc des Princes and, two years after departing for France in a deal potentially worth £50m, he made clear his desire to return to London.
The 29-year-old has signed a three-year contract at Stamford Bridge, where he claimed the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League during a three-and-a-half-year spell under the stewardships of Carlo Ancelotti, André Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, Rafael Benítez and José Mourinho.
There had initially been reluctance among some members of the hierarchy at Chelsea to bring David Luiz back to the club, with PSG sounded out over Marquinhos and a possible loan move for Aymen Abdennour at Valencia also explored, but Conte, so desperate to add to his options and frustrated in the Italian market, eventually expressed a willingness to restore the Brazilian to the ranks. That prompted a formal approach to PSG.
The centre-half has always been a favourite with the Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, and played 143 times for the club in that first spell. Chelsea received encouragement from the player this week and, eventually, from the Parisian club, after an offer worth £30m had been knocked back. The player’s agent, Kia Joorabchian, has worked closely with Chelsea in the past on other deals – not least over Ramires, Alex, Kenedy, Oscar and Matt Miazga – in partnership with Giuliano Bertolucci – with agreement eventually reached with PSG for the improved fee late on Wednesday afternoon.
There is an acceptance David Luiz’s defending can be erratic at times but his performance, despite carrying an injury, in the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich has marked him out as a significant figure in Chelsea’s recent past, with his reputation not damaged by his eagerness to celebrate scoring against Chelsea for PSG in the Champions League in 2015. He is experienced, knows the Premier League and his presence would allow Conte to explore the possibility of playing three centre-halves, a system he utilised at Juventus and with Italy. The Brazilian’s charisma and influence off the pitch have been missed over the past two years.