COMMENT: He left just as he arrived. In a whirlwind of chaos. Of mad deadline day drama. David Luiz again lighting up the final hours of another summer market. His move from Chelsea to Arsenal a stunner. An absolute bombshell.
Three years ago and it was Michael Emenalo getting it in the neck. The long departed football chief bringing Luiz back to Chelsea. Rescuing the Brazilian from the PSG scrapheap, where he’d been thrown in preseason by… Unai Emery.
Cycle forward to today and it’s worth recognising in the ledger that Emenalo’s decision proved positive. No-one at Chelsea were shuffling Luiz towards the exit. Indeed, the higher ups broke – nigh smashed – contract policy to keep the defender where he was. A month after his 32nd birthday, Chelsea had ripped up the scheme of rolling 12 month deals for their over 30s and handed the veteran a two-year arrangement.
That was what they thought of Luiz inside the club. A League and FA Cup winner, along with May’s triumph in Baku for the Europa League. These past three years, whether on paper, or on the pitch, had long silenced those ex-pros whom mocked so loudly upon Luiz’s return on August 31, 2016.
But this column is no love-in for the Brazilian. This decision of his to quit the Blues for a London rival is football at it’s cynical worst. Throwing away your obligations. Dismissing your responsibilities. The loyalty of a footballer. Indeed, his word. It all takes another knock after Luiz’s decision to swap Chelsea for Arsenal on Thursday.
We say obligations because that’s what Luiz owed the club after their gesture in May. Chelsea’s contract policy was wrong. We argued it here. But it was still their contract policy and one which several of Luiz’s teammates had had to adjust to. That management chose to rethink it when confronted by Luiz’s case of course was credit to the player for what he’d achieved these last three years. But with that credit also comes an obligation. People inside the boardroom, on the coaching staff, they all argued Luiz’s corner. They put their neck on the line for him. And in return he… well, we’ll leave that metaphor to you.
And with this new deal came an expectation of added responsibility. No-one doubts the popularity of Luiz amongst his teammates. He was a leader. The life, the heartbeat, of the dressing room. And given the need to shift the emphasis to youth this season, Luiz was one senior player management had banked on helping bring through the kids.
“Not only is he talented,” said Ruben Loftus-Cheek when reacting to Luiz’s new deal, “he’s a leader and he’s a senior player in the squad.
“David is a person who is really good with people. He’s got a lot of respect for young players, he sympathises with you a lot, and he knows because he’s been through it.”
And it’s not just the kids, Toni Rudiger also saying at the time: “He’s like a big brother and role model. He’s a very like positive guy always and very important in the dressing room. I am very happy to play alongside him for another two years.”
Even Luiz, himself, was open – at least we thought – about his position going into the new season. He was ready to take on the responsibility, so he said, the obligation of carrying out what management had asked of him: “Every single one, they have the quality already to play for this club. I have to do my role as a senior player, just trying to help them.”
But today, that idea of “helping” was to skip out on the club – and those he had pledged a loyalty to – for a direct, local rival. All those words about loyalty, about passion for Chelsea, for the fans and all connected to the club proven hollow. Meaningless. Just empty gestures to satisfy the here and now.
And it’s a shame. A real shame. You always thought the link between Luiz and Chelsea was stronger than most. That when he spoke, there was something more to his words than typical platitudes.
But it clearly was just a wrongful perception. As he said himself, in his Arsenal top, “The cycle is finished there.”
Luiz lit the place up again. Deadline day 2019 was his – just as it was three years ago. But 2016 was about strengthening his ties to Chelsea. Today, that reputation has taken heavy, heavy knock.
And for all he’s achieved these past three years, it’s a shame, a real shame.