On a day when most of the attention has gone to Fernando Torres and his record breaking move from Liverpool, another player didn't get nearly the love he deserved. David Luiz's move to Benfica was long, painful, and seemed to have died at least three times before he was finally announced as a Chelsea player, but the defender's now a with the club - after a month of negotiations and more than £21M. Out of the two signings today, it's actually Luiz I'm most happy about. Torres is too easy to be excited for, and it quickly seemed as though his move to Stamford Bridge was an inevitability. Luiz, though... that's a story.
We were first linked to Luiz at the end of the summer after selling Ricardo Carvalho to Real Madrid. It was pointed out that Chelsea had rather questionable depth at centre back, especially with John Terry a major injury risk and Jeffrey Bruma unproven. Nothing happened in summertime, but fears that the team might have a weakness in their back line proved totally rational as Chelsea's defence endured a major injury crisis which coincided with a massive slump in form, taking the team from top of the Premier League to fifth.
When January came around, there was never any doubt who the man to repair the defence would be. Benfica's now ex-star is widely considered one of the top defensive prospects on the planet, having broken into the Brazil team at just 23 years of age, and showing plenty of innate talent despite the occasional lapse. Luiz impressed more or less everyone who saw him play - and for good reason. Luiz is quicker than any of our current defenders, more composed on the ball, and better able to pick out a pass, short or long. He's also blessed with strong tackling and good heading, which makes him the perfect foil to our more burly defenders - the silk to their steel.
Chelsea had their target, and so this this blog - the legend of Sideshow Jesus had been born.
Negotiations started slowly, with Benfica rejecting at least three Chelsea bids before the last week of the transfer window. Then, things got weird. Word leaked that the Blues were preparing to go a different route by acquiring Wolfsburg's Simon Kjaer, and Benfica's representatives, panicking about cashing in on their investment, hurriedly flew to London to work out a deal. A deal was worked out, only to fall apart when it was leaked that Chelsea had not even put a bid in for Kjaer. Luiz played for Benfica in their next match.
The teams got back together, and negotiations continued. That is, however, until word came out that Chelsea were making a ludicrously high bid for Fernando Torres. I'm not sure what happened. Perhaps the Blues had been playing the 'we don't have enough money' line in their negotiations and had that blown out of the water by the Torres reveal. Anyway, negotiations between Chelsea and Benfica collapsed - and, we were told, would never revive.
Fast forward to deadline day. Rumour that the deal might - just might - be coming back to life surfaced in the morning. Many dismissed that outright. Then news came in from Portugal that Benfica had an accepted an offer for Luiz and had sent the defender on his way to London. The price? €25M and Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic. Cue pandemonium from Chelsea fans, who were now assured of getting both David Luiz and Fernando Torres in a single evening. Then panic as word arrived that Luiz had been pulled out of his plane and would stay in Lisbon while Benfica 'analysed' the transfer. Deal off? Deal on? Nobody knew for hours.
As it turns out, the deal did go through, and without a hitch at that. After what seems like years of my life tracking this story, Sideshow Jesus is a Chelsea player, and I couldn't be happier about that. He's pretty pleased too:
I am delighted to be joining a big English club, and I know very well the quality that Chelsea has. It is a major challenge for me but I am determined and confident in my ability to adapt to this excellent league, and I look forward to meeting my new-team mates.
-David Luiz. Source: ChelseaFC.com
Luiz will already know both Ramires and Alex from club (Ramires) and international duty, and there'll be no language barrier between himself and full-backs Paulo Ferreira and Jose Bosignwa, all of whom should help him settle into London. We've yet to see how he actually gets along with his teammates, but I sincerely doubt that will be a major issue.
I do have a word of caution regarding our expectations from Luiz this season, however. Benfica are a good side in a poor league, and as a result the level of competition outside of Champions League play is at least mildly deficient. Once-and-current teammate Ramires took some time to adjust to life in the Premier League after his arrival from Benfica in the summer and looked exceptionally poor in his first few matches (although he's making up for that now!), so I wouldn't expect Luiz to become a first choice player straight away. There's going to be an adjustment period before we see Luiz at his best.
I do think, though, that ultimately he'll become a fixture in the centre of the defence. Although he's theoretically capable of playing across the back line, he's far, far, far better as a centre half and Chelsea should deploy him at fullback only in emergencies. But at centre back, he has the potential for stardom. There's no reason why he can't be the same type of player as Ricardo Carvalho was for us, and at 23 years old and signed to a five and a half year deal, Luiz is around for the long run.
Since Benfica did play in the Champions League, Luiz is cup-tied for that competition. I'd expect him to make his debut in either a relatively straightforward Premier League match or the possible 5th round FA Cup game against Reading, assuming the Blues can overcome Everton in their upcoming replay.
Anyway. Welcome to Stamford Bridge, Mr. Luiz. We've been tracking your progress with great interest, and it's an absolute delight to bring you into the fold. <3