By Robin Bairner
Late on Friday evening, Paris Saint-Germain announced an agreement with Chelsea to make David Luiz the world’s most expensive defender ever, with the transfer fee expected to come in at around £40 million.
By making the Brazilian the planet’s costliest player in his role, it will be another golden feather in the increasingly lavish hat worn by the French champions, who apparently remain oblivious to the Financial Fair Play sanctions levied upon them by Uefa only a week ago.
PSG’s ascent from Ligue 1 makeweights to European elite has been relatively rapid, with Laurent Blanc’s side having risen from a 13th-place finish in 2010 to competing in consecutive Champions League quarter-finals only four years later.
It is a climb greater in speed than that achieved by Manchester City, who still await an appearance at such a level, despite being bought by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2007 – shortly after PSG had narrowly avoided an embarrassing relegation to France’s second flight. Other clubs who have received great injections of money, such as Anzhi, often have failed to make it so far, while it took Chelsea nine years of Roman Abramovich’s investments before they finally lifted the Champions League.
PSG’s quick climb to prominence has owed much to their savvy dealings in the transfer market, avoiding exactly the kind of pitfall that they seem to have made by signing Luiz – a defender more noted for his dashing forward runs that his capabilities around his own box.
Former sporting director Leonardo, who departed the club last August, was behind the key deals to build the Parisian outfit, luring Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the planet’s classiest defender in Thiago Silva, yet since he left PSG have appeared rather rudderless in the transfer market, with no heir ever appointed to his role as sporting director. Maligned as a coach he may have been, but the 1994 World Cup winner’s value behind the scenes has been made more apparent due to his absence.
While Luiz could be seen as an attractive addition for his buccaneering style of play, the context of his arrival at Parc des Princes is, frankly, bizarre.
A matter of two weeks ago, PSG were branded as FFP criminals and handed a €60 million fine from Uefa, a cut in their Champions League squad from 25 to 21 – a punishment problematic owing to their lack of homegrown players – and instructed to cut their wage bill.
Like an insolent teenager, however, the French champions have seemingly chosen to ignore Uefa’s stern threats of rebuke.
Indeed, the arrival of Luiz seems to cause more problems than it might solve. Even allowing for the likely departure of the out-of-contract Alex, the Brazilian’s arrival in the City of Lights will do nothing to stem concerns over their financial viability. Marquinhos has also been touted as a potential player to make way, though it would seem ludicrous short-termism to allow one of the most talented young centre-backs in the world game to depart for the 27-year-old.
A reported fee of €49.5m adds to the implausible nature of the transfer. Chelsea, who narrowly missed out of FFP sanctions themselves this season, will suddenly have greater freedom in the transfer market by offloading a bit-part player for a princely sum, yet the already-sanctioned French outfit appear intent on gilding lilies that could be happily left untouched.
And that is without even taking into account that Luiz is not a player worthy of becoming the game’s most expensive defender.
The nickname 'Sideshow Bob' may be drawn from a character from 'The Simpsons', yet it also fits the nature of the defender’s game perfectly. While he is capable of making dramatic offensive forays that catch the eye, his lack of defensive nous – surely the primary function of his game – is sorely lacking.
Perhaps if the Brazilian had been trained in France, thereby easing the strain over the stipulation of homegrown players in Europe, such a transfer might be more understandable. However, the early career of his player was forged in Brazil, who fails to check even this meagre box.
There is little about this incongruous deal that adds up – and the figures certainly don’t for a Parisian side with the FFP axe over their necks as Uefa tighten their grip over accounts of those playing on football’s greatest stage.
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