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Opinion: David Luiz is charming & funny but quick to brood if the love dries up

  /  autty

David Luiz sat on the back seat of the bus bound for a school in Boston and could not have seemed more content with life at Chelsea.

He had recently met with Roman Abramovich who had been prepared to waive the club protocol of insisting upon nothing more than a one-year contract extension for players over 30 in order to keep him at Stamford Bridge for two more years.

Otherwise, the Brazilian would have been walking out on a free transfer this summer with the prospect of a lucrative free transfer and plenty of interest, including from his former Paris Saint-Germain boss Unai Emery at Arsenal.

'Chelsea is inside my heart,' he said and, with unflinching eye-contact, appeared for all the world as if he meant it.

'It means a lot to sign a new contract. I had other options but I always look to try to find a new challenge in my life... I can see the challenge is here. I want to do more for this club.'

Luiz is a big personality. When he is happy he is happy in a big way. Everybody knows about it. He is all smiles and 'alright-my-man' and warm handshakes. In Boston, he was big-time happy, embracing his role as a senior pro and dressing room leader when others were hiding.

He charmed the schoolchildren at this community visit and posed patiently for selfies with police officers proving the team escort before climbing back on board the bus.

Intelligent and articulate, Luiz told how he had been ruled unfit on the eve of the Champions League final in 2012 but insisted upon playing. Not only did he make it through 120 minutes but stepped up to score in the shootout.

Moreover, he spoke supportively of Maurizio Sarri at a time when the manager was not popular and his future was in doubt and backed him to win the Europa League.

He championed the club's young academy graduates to seize amid their chance amid the threat of the transfer ban and the exit of Eden Hazard.

Luiz in this mode is pure captaincy material. Brimming with positive energy, he shoulders the burden of responsibility and leans into his role.

With Hazard on his way out to Real Madrid, he became arguably the most recognisable face in the Chelsea squad, with his shaggy locks and free-flowing style.

When Frank Lampard arrived he stepped forward to promote the new regime and its return to old values and yet, for all this, when things turn against him, Luiz is quick to sulk, prone to brood and not so slow to untangle himself from a disagreement.

He was deeply hurt by critics such as Gary Neville who mocked his defensive acumen when he first arrived in English football from Benfica and picked at scars throughout his first spell at the Bridge.

When he returned, Luiz fell out with Antonio Conte when he stood up to the Italian after a Champions League game at Roma to speak on behalf of his fellow centre-halves Antonio Rudiger and Gary Cahill about who ought to play on the right and who on the left.

Chelsea were awful that night in Rome. Two down at half-time, they lost 3-0 and Conte froze out Luiz and turned to Andreas Christensen. It would be more than three months before the manager selected him to start a Premier League game again.

When he was eventually recalled, in February, with Christensen injured, Luiz performed poorly and Chelsea were thrashed 4-1 at Watford. It was a desperate performance, the nadir for Conte who, in truth, had lost the hearts of the Brazilian players as soon as he ostracised Diego Costa.

Kenedy yawned in a post-Roma team meeting and enraged Conte further as Luiz was the only player to engage in debate with the manager.

Sarri arrived last summer and told him it would be best if he left but within a week of training had changed his mind.

Not only did Luiz make 50 appearances during a season in which he turned 32 but he did not miss a single training session, a proud record which has failed to make it beyond the opening fixture of the new campaign.

With Chelsea preparing for Manchester United on Sunday, he did not take part in the session with Lampard's first team on Wednesday as a possible move to Arsenal took shape with similar haste to his surprise return from PSG on deadline day, three years ago.

Luiz, it transpired, had grown increasingly concerned about his future under Lampard and fears the new manager prefers a combination of Christensen, Kurt Zouma and Rudiger, when he is fit after a knee injury.

He thought he had been singled out for blame for defensive frailties on display when six goals were conceded in two friendlies at Reading and Red Bull Salzburg.

Christensen and Zouma were in tandem at Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday and Luiz did not even appear from the bench.

The idea of hurrying him out at a time when Chelsea are banned from signing new players and low on experience does not reflect well on Luiz. It hints heavily at Lampard's concern about the impact a disillusioned Luiz might have on the environment.

They were teammates who shared their greatest triumph in Munich. They know each other well. It will mark a suitably strange end to a Chelsea career for the enduring riddle that is David Luiz.

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