Cobham - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has hit back at
criticism of his surprise move for David Luiz by claiming the Brazilian can
become one of the world's best defenders.
Conte has brought Luiz back to Stamford Bridge two years
after he was sold to Paris Saint Germain in a world record 50 million ($66
million, 59 million euros) deal for a defender.
But Conte's 32 million swoop for the centre-back on last
month's transfer deadline day wasn't greeted with widespread acclaim given
Luiz's habit of making careless and costly mistakes during his first spell with
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville memorably
said Luiz looked like he was "being controlled by a 10-year-old in the
crowd on a Playstation" after one especially error-strewn display and he
was unable to shed that reputation during his time in France.
Conte conceded the 29-year-old still has room for
improvement, but the Italian believes Luiz has the ability and desire to
eventually rank among the best in the world.
"I think every player can improve until the end of
their career. I know this from my experience as a player," Conte told
reporters on Friday.
"Luiz is 29, it is a fantastic age for him to become
one of the best defenders in the world.
"He wanted to play for Chelsea. It is a great
opportunity for him and us. He has good characteristics to become a fantastic
Conte played a major role in transforming Italy's Leonardo
Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini into world-class defenders and, despite only
working with Luiz for a few days, he already sees signs the centre-back can
follow the same path of enlightenment.
"We took a player with great personality and a good
technique," Conte said.
"David can improve in defensive situations but he is a
good guy, a positive guy for the changing room.
"I think also the coach must improve his players. This
is important for me. To work on the weakness and make the player stronger.
"I'm very happy because I'm seeing great attitude and
the will to improve, to have more knowledge."
Also read: Luiz happy to be jack of all trades at Chelsea
- New philosophy -
Chelsea made bids for several other defenders before signing
Luiz, yet Conte insisted it wasn't a panic move to bring in the former Benfica
"When we take the decision about the players, we always
take it together, me and the club," he said.
"I told you this transfer market was very difficult to reach
our targets but at the last minute there was this situation for the club to
improve the squad. For this reason we bought Luiz."
Conte was also quick to play down suggestions Luiz could be
used in midfield, a role he sometimes filled for PSG.
"I must be honest, we bought Luiz because we need a
centre-back," Conte added.
However, with John Terry and Gary Cahill entrenched as
Chelsea's centre-backs and the defence functioning well as a unit, Luiz and
fellow new recruit Marcos Alonso, a left-back signed from Fiorentina, may have
to wait for their first appearances.
"I think the new players needed a bit of time to work
with a new philosophy," Conte said ahead of Sunday's trip to Swansea.
"For this reason I think the chance to play at the
start is not high."
Chelsea's bid to maintain their 100 percent record under
Conte will be overshadowed by Saturday's Manchester derby between United and
Conte will watch the showdown between two of Chelsea's main
title rivals, but he refused to say who he regards as the greater threat.
"I don't like to speak about the favourite because last
season showed us that a team not favourite can win the title," he said.
"We know United and City are two great teams. They
reinforced a lot in this transfer market.
"But I think and I hope at the end of the season five
or six teams can fight for the title."For
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