By Sam Wallace
Barcelona are prepared to test Chelsea’s resolve to hang on to their Brazilian defender David Luiz, who is attracting interest from the Spanish club one week before the end of the transfer window.
Luiz, 25, is valued at around £30m by the club, who say in private that they have no immediate plans to sell a player they bought in January of last year. Luiz is injured and missed the Premier League win over Reading on Wednesday night, having first announced he would not be playing on Twitter on the morning of the game.
Yesterday afternoon, he tweeted a photograph of himself on a private plane declaring that he was preparing to fly to Barcelona. He later said he was returning to London. The club maintained he was attending a Nike event in the city and had permission to do so from their manager, Roberto Di Matteo, despite being injured.
Chelsea agreed a fee with Wigan Athletic yesterday for the Nigerian striker Victor Moses, 21, understood to be in the region of £9m, the club’s fourth major signing of the transfer window. Wigan announced the agreement followed “four unsuccessful bids” by the European champions and that Moses had permission to negotiate personal terms with Chelsea.
The acquisition of Moses is in keeping with the London club’s policy of acquiring what they consider to be the best young talent, including the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Romelu Lukaku, currently on loan at West Bromwich Albion. Although they have tended to pay high fees, the interest Luiz is attracting demonstrates Chelsea buy players who increase in value.
Luiz has divided opinion at the club since he joined from Benfica for a deal worth around £25m. An unorthodox defender who has been prone to make the occasional mistake, he remains popular with the supporters. There is understood to be strong interest, however, in Luiz from Barcelona and there are elements at the club who would regard a profit on the player, who is not a guaranteed starter, as good business.
Barcelona, who played Real Madrid at home in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup last night, have already signed Alexander Song as an option to play at centre-back. With Javier Mascherano also co-opted into the position from midfield, it is one area in which their options are limited.
Selling Luiz would not necessarily leave Chelsea short on central-halves, with Branislav Ivanovic having told Di Matteo over the summer that he wants to be considered as a centre-back and not a right-back, where he found himself playing for much of last season.
Should Luiz leave the club in the next seven days then it would be more likely Chelsea would seek a right-back to fill the gap left by him rather than sign a centre-back. The Marseilles full-back Cesar Azpilicueta is one candidate regarded as a suitable option. Manchester City have played down suggestions they could be interested in Luiz.
In Luiz’s absence on Wednesday night, the England international Gary Cahill scored Chelsea’s second goal in a 4-2 win over Reading in a performance that, while promising in attacking terms, did pose questions about the team’s defensive discipline.
Cahill said that he took responsibility for not having got sufficiently close to Pavel for Reading’s first goal but argued that Chelsea were playing a different, more attacking breed of football. “I certainly wouldn’t say we were boring, there was some exciting stuff,” he said. “I thought [Eden] Hazard was phenomenal and we looked dangerous. It’s exciting to see them boys playing their stuff.
“Yes, maybe because we have got attack-minded players that want to show their flair and ability. Maybe defensively we might be a little bit more exposed. That is something we at the back have got to try to deal with. I don’t think you want to stop the way they play because I thought they were fantastic.”
David Luiz in numbers
53 Chelsea games for the Brazilian since 2011 move.
12 Brazil caps won by Luiz, since his debut in August 2010 against the US.
£21m Amount Chelsea paid Benfica for the centre-back 19 months ago.
5 Goals scored for Chelsea – most recent versus Bolton last February.