DAVID LUIZ took a risk — and a pay cut — to join Chelsea’s revolution.
It is not exactly life on Poverty Street back in England, but facing down his critics and winning trophies matter more than money to the eccentric Brazilian.
Luiz returned to Chelsea from Paris Saint-Germain last August in one of the most surprising deals of the summer window — because of his previous reputation for defensive errors.
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The last-minute move by Antonio Conte and the decision by Luiz, 30, to give the Premier League another go looked a massive £34million gamble. But it has been proven a masterstroke.
He has emerged as a key part of Chelsea’s triumvirate of defenders which, while it has not kept many clean sheets, has played a huge role in transforming the club after the disasters of last season.
What’s more, Luiz is now an integral part of the future for a team which can clinch the Double tomorrow by beating Arsenal in the FA Cup final, and then go on to even bigger and better things next season.
Luiz said: “I was winning in Paris. I went to Paris for two years and won all the titles in France.
“I had a great life, I had great credibility with the club. I had everything in Paris and then I took a risk to come back in one country that was not that happy with me.
“They always criticise me a lot, even with the Champions League, Europa League, play all the games and that’s it and 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 always stay with the easy life so that’s why I took the risk and today I am very happy.
“I have to take a risk to feel something for myself not for others.
“If you want to know about the money, I cut my salary to come back here. But it’s OK, God has given me a lot so I’m happy with this.”
Luiz is also a big character in the Blues dressing room.
After winning the Premier League title two weeks ago at West Brom, he invaded the manager’s post-match press conference and kidnapped boss Conte for larks.
Skipper John Terry’s after-game interviews last Sunday were interrupted by Luiz pulling funny faces.
At Chelsea’s training ground on Wednesday he hopped around to prove his fitness when asked about his ongoing knee issues.
Luiz’s devotion to God has also made him merciful to those who labelled him a disaster waiting to happen when he came back.
Conte mothballed the centre-back initially upon his return but was forced to throw him in after an emergency tactical shift, opting for the three at the back, which played a pivotal role in their turnaround.
This was the team which finished a lowly tenth last season and sacked its iconic manager Jose Mourinho.
Luiz has helped smooth the transition.
He joked: “I am the magic, no? I think last season was not good for Chelsea and this season we did great since the beginning, not just because of me, 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.
“I think I tried to improve as a person, as a brother, as a son, as a friend every day.
“I’m very happy because I took the decision and it was the right decision.
“Conte is a great person, a great character and he’s passionate — he loves football. 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’.”
Luiz missed the 2012 FA Cup final because of injury but is raring to go tomorrow.
Football is a risky business. Luiz was once considered too big a risk at the back for Chelsea but now it is a gamble to leave him out. And he has every intention to stay put.
He said: “Let’s see, the ambition. I want to win the next title, we have the opportunity this season and then let’s see. You are trying to kick me out to another club?”