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The Cult of David Luiz and Why He's More Than Just a Player to Chelsea Fans

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2016

B/R UK

It's been billed as a transfer-deadline-day panic buy, but Chelsea fans see David Luiz's return to Stamford Bridge as representing something so much more.

For all the detractors he has in football, Luiz maintains a cult status on Fulham Road. He won the Champions League as a Chelsea player in 2012, proving an unlikely hero in the face of adversity when John Terry missed the final through suspension. Chelsea fans haven't forgotten his contribution.

Call it the hair—or that hat he wore when signing for the Blues on Wednesday—but the cult of Luiz is alive and well in west London.

The way Chelsea fans see it, he's their geezer. Luiz has never stopped being their geezer; he will always be their geezer. His homecoming is one that has reaffirmed the bond between the terraces and the boardroom that was dented last season, when Jose Mourinho departed for a second time.

In that sense, he's exactly what the club need now. Luiz represents the past, present and future of Chelsea.

"Well, well! What a nice surprise to see Sideshow Bob back at the Bridge," acclaimed film and stage actor Phil Daniels told Bleacher Report on the back of Luiz's return this week. "He plays with his heart on his sleeve, and I like that. Chelsea need characters, and Luiz fits the bill. I can't wait to see him smash in his first rocket!"

It's a perspective that sums up Luiz's impact in his first three-and-a-half years in a Chelsea shirt. Despite some erratic performances and the criticism he received in the media, Luiz was a favourite among Blues supporters, as he gave them something few players can. He showed he cared about winning and no matter how he performed, that passion and desire was always going to be his standout quality.

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That Luiz has the ability to fire home the occasional odd wonder goal just adds to the allure of it all.

He embraced British and Chelsea culture from the moment he arrived in January 2011. The scenes of him on the open-top bus in 2012 as it weaved through London's streets were the finest example. With Chelsea fans and players singing together after Champions League and FA Cup success, his voice was a unique one.

"Geezers!" Luiz shouted over the microphone, addressing his people. It was symbolic for so much more than a player who was overjoyed with reaching the pinnacle of club football. It was a player confirming his place as one of the hundreds of thousands who were there lining the streets.

In that moment, Chelsea was coursing through Luiz's veins. His blood was dyed in Chelsea's royal blue.

It's doing British culture an injustice to suggest that geezer culture is what defines Britain. There's so much more for Britain to promote itself, but it's what the term means that reflects the attitude and ethos of Britons. A geezer is your friend, a comrade in life as much as in battle. It's not a term loosely thrown around, but one that confirms brotherhood.

Standing atop that bus, screaming it from the top of his lungs, Luiz was calling every Chelsea fan just that. It was a leader's cry to bring Chelsea together, which is why his return now is so important.

Antonio Conte's attitude and approach in the early days of his reign as manager have been exemplary. His celebrations on the sidelines have already endeared him to the Stamford Bridge crowd. And now, Luiz can display that same passion on the pitch.

David Luiz holds up an issue of the cfcuk fanzine in 2012. This picture will adorn the cover of the next issue
David Luiz holds up an issue of the cfcuk fanzine in 2012. This picture will adorn the cover of the next issueDavid Johntone, cfcuk

Terry remains Chelsea's leader. Luiz isn't competing with that. But in addition to helping the Blues win football matches, Luiz is there to inject some of Conte's touchline attitude onto the pitch. Now, that may seem erratic and unconsidered when he's in full flow, but Luiz's expressions of emotion are what drive football fans wild. He knows how to whip up a storm on the terraces.

"I'm extremely pleased to see the return of David Luiz. He's a committed team player, he's good for team morale, and having been in the company of the players when he's been present, I've seen the positive effect he has on those around him," says David Johnstone from the popular cfcuk fanzine.

"He's an exciting player in as much as one's never sure what he'll do next, and I'm not sure he does either. A definite asset for both the team and the Chelsea supporters."

It's why the noise from Chelsea fans is drowning out the criticism of the late move to bring Luiz back to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea haven't just signed another defender or player this summer; they've brought back an icon.

     

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes.