or many the gamble was very much Chelsea’s, but David Luiz has claimed that he took a big risk by accepting a pay cut to return to Stamford Bridge and England – a “country that was not happy with me”.
The risk has already brought reward, as Luiz has completed his set of major trophies with Chelsea by winning his first Premier League title with the club.
And the vindication for both player and club could be underlined on Saturday when Luiz has the chance to help Chelsea to a Premier League and FA Cup Double in his first season back.
Taking risks on the pitch was what earned Luiz criticism and Sky Sports pundit Neville, plus most other observers, were stunned to see Chelsea re-sign the 30-year-old from Paris St-Germain at the end of last summer’s transfer window. But head coach Antonio Conte has helped Luiz eliminate the defensive gambles that used to get him into trouble and the Brazilian has been superb in the centre of Chelsea’s three-man defence.
“I was winning in Paris,” said Luiz. “I went to Paris for two years and won all the titles in France. I had a great life, I had a great credibility with the club.
“I had everything in Paris and then I took a risk to come back to a country that was not that happy with me. They always criticise me a lot even with the Champions League, Europa League and playing all the games. That’s why it was a risk and I love the risk.
“If you don’t take risks in your life you never feel something new, so I taste something new and I like that. I don’t like to stay always with the easy life, so that’s why I took the risk and today I am very happy.”
Luiz, though, is clear that he did not return to Chelsea and England to prove his critics wrong, adding: “I had to take a risk to feel something good for me, not for the others. I’m very happy because I took the decision and it was the right decision.
“I cut my salary to come back here. But it’s OK, God has given me a lot so I’m happy with this.”
Conte sounded like he was trying to convince himself, as well as the room, when he claimed he could help Luiz become one of the best defenders in the world shortly after the player’s return.
But he has succeeded in transforming Luiz into one of the best defenders in England thanks to Chelsea’s new system and the Italian’s attention to detail.
Luiz’s impact has also been felt off the pitch, as he is a larger than life character in the dressing room and has helped rebuild the spirit that evaporated during the final months of Jose Mourinho’s reign.
“Conte is a great person, a great character and he’s passionate – he loves football,” said Luiz, who missed the 2012 FA Cup final through injury. “The day I arrived here we talked together and he tried to explain his philosophy to play football.
“He said to me, ‘You are the player I want in my team and to improve my team’, and then I said to him, ‘I’m going to work hard for you and for the team’, and that’s it.
“I’m working hard since the beginning of my career. I think to play 10 years consecutively in big clubs is not easy, so I’m trying to give my best every season.
“I think I tried to improve as a person, as a brother, as a son, as a friend every day. If you don’t want to learn everybody will pass you, so I try to improve every day.
“Last season was not a good season for Chelsea and this season we did great since the beginning, not just because of me, I think because of everybody. Because of the commitment, the desire, the mentality we put on the pitch every day until today. Every day we are working hard and that’s why we deserve it.”
For Chelsea and Luiz the gamble has paid off handsomely.