Chelsea’s summer-long pursuit of defensive reinforcements prompted an outlay close to £60m on transfer deadline day, with the eye-catching return of David Luiz from Paris Saint-Germain complementing Marcos Alonso’s arrival from Fiorentina.
Antonio Conte, exasperated at seeing interest in players such as Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Alessio Romagnoli of Milan rejected, gave the green light to the return of David Luiz for £34m, with further fees due in future, after it emerged the Brazil international had become unsettled at PSG. The centre-half was expecting to find himself demoted behind his compatriots Marquinhos and Thiago Silva at Parc des Princes and, two years after departing for France in a deal potentially worth £50m, he made clear his desire to return to London.
The 29-year-old has signed a three-year contract at Stamford Bridge, where he claimed the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League during a three-and-a-half-year spell under the stewardships of Carlo Ancelotti, André Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, Rafael Benítez and José Mourinho.
There had initially been reluctance among some members of the hierarchy at Chelsea to bring David Luiz back to the club, with PSG sounded out over Marquinhos and a possible loan move for Aymen Abdennour at Valencia also explored, but Conte, so desperate to add to his options and frustrated in the Italian market, eventually expressed a willingness to restore the Brazilian to the ranks. That prompted a formal approach to PSG.
The centre-half has always been a favourite with the Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, and played 143 times for the club in that first spell. Chelsea received encouragement from the player this week and, eventually, from the Parisian club, after an offer worth £30m had been knocked back. The player’s agent, Kia Joorabchian, has worked closely with Chelsea in the past on other deals – not least over Ramires, Alex, Kenedy, Oscar and Matt Miazga – in partnership with Giuliano Bertolucci – with agreement eventually reached with PSG for the improved fee late on Wednesday afternoon.
There is an acceptance David Luiz’s defending can be erratic at times but his performance, despite carrying an injury, in the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich has marked him out as a significant figure in Chelsea’s recent past, with his reputation not damaged by his eagerness to celebrate scoring against Chelsea for PSG in the Champions League in 2015. He is experienced, knows the Premier League and his presence would allow Conte to explore the possibility of playing three centre-halves, a system he utilised at Juventus and with Italy. The Brazilian’s charisma and influence off the pitch have been missed over the past two years.
Alonso, a left-back, has signed a five-year contract after Chelsea reached agreement with Fiorentina over a £23m move for the former Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland defender. The Italian’s arrival takes Chelsea’s spending on left-backs to around £57m since Ashley Cole departed in the summer of 2014, albeit with some of that money recouped when Filipe Luís returned to Atlético Madrid.
“I’m very happy: it’s a step up in my career and I think this is the perfect place for me to continue developing,” Alonso said. “It’s time for me to win some titles. It was an easy decision to make when I heard the club were interested. My family and close friends know Chelsea is the club I have dreamed about playing for, so I’m really excited about the challenge and I’m looking forward to working with my new team-mates.”
Chelsea, who rejected an inquiry for Milan as to the availability of Cesc Fàbregas, have also continued to clear players from the fringes of the club, with Juan Cuadrado completing a return to Juventus, where he spent last season, on a three-year loan with an option to buy. The intricacies of the deal will effectively see the Colombia forward join for an annual fee of €5m (£4.25m) with Juve having the option to buy him permanently but also obliged to complete a deal for €25m, minus the loan fees already paid, if certain clauses are triggered by appearances. A further fee of €4m would be applicable dependent on the club’s success with Cuadrado in their ranks.
Christian Atsu has joined Newcastle, Jake Clarke-Salter and Charlie Colkett have moved to Bristol Rovers, Islam Feruz to Royal Mouscron, Cristian Cuevas to Sint-Truidense, Miazga to Vitesse Arnhem and Kenneth Omeruo has moved to Alanyaspor, all on season-long loan moves. It takes the number of players to have left on loan this summer to 38.