June 13th, 2014 was the day rivals and neutrals alike laughed at Paris Saint-Germain for having shelled out €62 million, a record transfer fee for a defender, for Chelsea’s David Luiz.
Blues supporters created countless Jose Mourinho memes mocking PSG and the media slammed the capital club for spending so much on a player that was embarrassed in the 2014 World Cup semifinals in his home country of Brazil. Everybody thought it was a waste of money to go for an offensive minded center back, calling it a marketing scheme for the club to sell more jerseys. Now he is beginning his second season in Paris and we must ask, was he worth it?
Luiz started his PSG career in 2013 alongside fellow Brazilian Marquihnos since Thiago Silva was injured at the beginning of the season. He performed well and displayed a very calming presence at the back during his first few Ligue 1 matches. While he was solid during league play, it was the Champions League where he would ultimately be judged. His first goal for the club came in a group stage showdown against Barcelona as Paris went on to win 3-2, without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Silva no less. Some say that was the night he officially became a member of Les Rouge-et-Bleu.
He scored his first league goal in a 4-2 win over Evian and although he had some questionable decisions at times with the ball at his feet, things were going smoothly for the Brazilian at Paris. After the Champions League group stage was settled, PSG drew his former team, Chelsea, in the Round of 16. Anticipation for the rematch of the quarterfinals from the year before was palpable. In that previous match up, Luiz and Edinson Cavani got into a heated exchange right in front of manager Laurent Blanc, ironic when you consider the two are best friends now. But back to the story. In the rematch, Branislav Ivanovic put Chelsea up 0-1 in the first half, but Cavani answered in the second with an equalizing goal in the first leg. Advancing to the next round seemed daunting as PSG head to Stamford Bridge tied at 1. The previous year Paris held a 3-1 edge over Chelsea and ultimately lost on away goals. The stage was set for a masterpiece from Luiz and his new teammates.
After Ibrahimovic’s controversial red card early in the match, most people thought Paris would wilt. Many in the football world who only knew PSG as “that club Zlatan plays for,” would be shocked as a 10 men PSG put on a performance for the ages against the eventual English champions.
Chelsea scored first and seemed all but set to go through until Luiz elevated and smashed in a header from a Ezequiel Lavezzi corner in the 85th minute. He apologized for his celebration after the match, but not even Chelsea fans could’ve criticized him for the moment. His header allowed the game to go onto extra time. Eden Hazard put Chelsea up once again in the extra period but it was a looping Silva header that brought the aggregate to 3-3 and PSG advanced on away goals in incredible fashion. Though others played a huge role that night, Luiz was immense. Frustrating Diego Costa on the night and scoring that equalizing goal was all too sweet for PSG fans; and for a moment, he was worth all those Euros and more.
The next round of the Champions Leage is one Luiz will hope to forget. Unfit entering the first leg against Barcelona at the Parc des Princes, Luiz had to be subbed on early when Silva picked up a hamstring injury. What followed led to more memes and ridicule from fans and media alike for the Brazilian defender. Luis Suarez nutmegged him not once, but twice, on the way to two goals. PSG we’re all but finished heading back to the Camp Nou down 1-3. To be fair to the player, he was hurt and wasn’t even supposed to play a part in the game. Add that to the fact that Paris were missing Ibrahimovic, Marco Verratti, Lucas Moura, Thiago Motta, and the loss becomes understandable. It was a bitter pill to swallow for PSG and their fans after such a breathtaking win over Chelsea.
The rest of the season went much better for Luiz. PSG swept domestic competitions and made history in the process, becoming the first French side to do so. Luiz enters his second season for the capital club forming a nice partnership with a healthy Silva. The more they play together, the better their chemistry will be and the more clean sheets we’ll see pile up this season. The Brazilian duo can also mentor young star in the making Marquinhos, which is good for both PSG and the Brazilian national team. Luiz is a presence in the locker room, especially for the young guys like Jean-Kévin Augustin. His relationship with Cavani and new recruit Angel Di Maria bodes well for the Parisians this season.
He may have his detractors and embarrassing moments at times but what he showed me in that match against Chelsea in the Champions League proved one thing: he was absolutely worth the money. In a world where unproven 21-year-old John Stones from Everton can bring bids worth around €40 million, I feel confident in saying Luiz was worth the money PSG paid for him and a Champions League title this year should make the memes disappear once and for all.