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David Luiz & Real Madrid? Why he and Conte need eachother at Chelsea

COMMENT: Whoah! Whoah! David Luiz to Real Madrid? To Barcelona? After 18 months he's on the move again? Really...?

Well, not according to those on the ground at Cobham. Indeed, though Luiz was experiencing his own little Groundhog Day last month, for those who see him day-in, day-out, the feeling is it won't end as it did a year and a half ago in Paris.

Instead, we're hearing so impressed has Antonio Conte been with Luiz's reaction to his axing for the Manchester United win that all is forgiven. The Brazilian's decision to confront his manager and openly question his tactics now tolerated - though it must be said not forgotten. Conte just isn't that type of character.

But the relationship between player and manager isn't in shreds. Thanks to Luiz's attitude - and it must be said, Conte's experience with Diego Costa - the door has been flung open. His recall for the Champions League win at Qarabag spoke volumes - even without Conte nor Luiz mentioning it in the aftermath.

It was almost like it didn't happen. A big name. A massive character. All that hype around his axing for United. Days and days of insider news. Yet upon his recall in Baku it barely warranted a line in the match reports. Why? Well, simply because Luiz had made it so.

In the aftermath of his dumping at Stamford Bridge, we all expected a reaction. A blow up. The speculation ran for days. But there was no strop. No leaks to the press. Not even a friendly word of support from a teammate - ex or otherwise. Luiz took control. He and his minders kept everything locked down.

Instead, Luiz simply put his head down and went at the heart of Conte. To what the manager values most in a footballer:

"He is a young player and it's important for him to work, work, work in training sessions to improve himself and then to have this type of performance."

That was Conte, just last night, talking about the in-form Eden Hazard. But it's a message he's been drumming into every player he addresses on the Cobham training pitches. And it's one Luiz heeded and used to win back his coach's trust.

Of course, Luiz had seen and experienced all this before. Just 18 months ago in Paris under the newly-appointed PSG coach Unai Emery. Where Conte chose Andreas Christensen for United, Emery went with Marquinhos ahead of Luiz in preseason.

Emery relayed his decision in an infamous meeting at PSG HQ just a week before Luiz was being sold to Chelsea. He would have to step back. Marquinhos was the present - and future - of PSG's back four. Luiz had gone from a title winner and first-choice under Laurent Blanc to a fourth rung centre-half inside a month. Luiz never saw it coming. He would later confess to friends he felt his knees buckle as he struggled to leave the room.

The Chelsea offer was opportune for all parties. Luiz saved face. Emery avoided a fans backlash. And Conte had a centre-half - though not his first-choice.

Today, circumstances are similar. Though there's no such escape route waiting for Luiz in January.

The Real Madrid story, though making it's way to the UK press from Brazil, actually originated from Monaco and RMC. And as we've been told, the idea of Luiz swapping one bit-part role for another just doesn't make sense. The Brazilian would go to Madrid as cover, not as a first-choice. It would offer no help in his bid to win back favour from Brazil coach Tite and at 30, such a deal makes no sense for neither player nor club. Indeed, Real president Florentino Perez's January priorities are further forward, where his attack is even drawing public criticism from coach Zinedine Zidane for their lack of goals this season.

Barca is emerging as a mooted option following Samuel Umtiti's hamstring tear. The Frenchman faces two months sidelined, but the call on Saturday night already went out to Javier Mascherano. Those plans to leave in January for China will have to wait until Umtiti is fully recovered.

Luiz knows Chelsea remains his best option. What's more, Luiz wants to still call Chelsea home. He loves the club. The fans. The staff. His teammates. Even the manager. It is home for him.

Indeed, it is this passion that led to Luiz confronting Conte about his tactics. The manager did not like it at the time. But there is something to be said about a senior pro taking a career risk like that for the good of the team and the club.

Luiz isn't a pro happy to simply pick up his wages no matter the result. Someone happy to go along to get along. That's something no-one can accuse Luiz of. Even in his craziest on-field moments, no fan could claim he's ever downed tools.

Which is why Conte needs to keep Luiz around. And why Luiz must continue the 'work, work, work' to win back his place. Even in those days after the United result, the pair must have realised - they need eachother.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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