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May 24, 2014

Luiz's money-making move makes sense for Chelsea

Shaggy hair. Brazilian flair. Geezer. Those words in unison conjure up the image of just one man -- David Luiz.

The 27-year-old has become something of an icon due to his distinctive barnet, his silky touch and the natural way in which he bonds with fans and teammates alike. The flamboyant Luiz is a hugely popular figure among supporters of Chelsea and Brazil while his joie de vivre has been a sizable influence in the Stamford Bridge dressing room since his arrival from Benfica in 2011.

His status is set to rise further next month when the World Cup takes place in his homeland, and should he replicate his performances from last summer's Confederations Cup then he will be assured of a permanent place in the hearts of his countrymen.

And yet his imminent departure from Chelsea has been met, for the most part, with complete understanding by the club's followers -- a complete contrast with the initial reaction to the sale of Juan Mata to Manchester United in January. The disappointment that greeted the Spaniard's switch was based on the loss of a crowd favourite to a major rival, although the 37 million pounds received for his services softened the blow slightly. That Luiz is leaving for foreign climes, albeit to a club that will be challenging the Blues for Europe's top honours for the foreseeable future, has tempered any discontent while the mammoth transfer fee has rendered any debate obsolete.

Reports differ on exactly what the French champions have offered, although with the common thread being that the initial fee is around 40 million pounds rising to almost 50 million depending on appearances and achievements, Chelsea are virtually duty bound to entertain their interest. Should the sale go through, it would be the highest amount ever paid for a defender and would represent spectacular business for the Londoners given that he is far from guaranteed a first-team place under Jose Mourinho.

- Johnson: Is Luiz's PSG move good value?

- Lampard, Cole and Eto'o to leave Chelsea

For all Luiz's virtues, in the three and a half years that he has been in West London, he has failed to cement a place in the side or even make a position his own. Although he offers different traits in comparison to his teammates and possesses ball skills to rival some of the most skilful at the club, he has still found himself eclipsed at centre-back by John Terry and Gary Cahill. With Branislav Ivanovic also in contention and the hunger of Tomas Kalas and Kurt Zouma at Mourinho's disposal next season, there is no shortage of cover in central defence.

The story is similar in midfield. Since his arrival during the mid-season transfer window, Nemanja Matic has shown Luiz exactly how the defensive midfield role should be played, just as he did when the two were in direct opposition during last season's Europa League final. That is not to say that Luiz is not competent in that position, though. Indeed when he played in tandem with Matic at Manchester City in February, the two dominated the middle of the pitch and laid the foundation for the 1-0 victory.

The crux of the matter, however, is that Luiz is not the best at the club in any position, which makes the acceptance of such an eye-watering offer an easy decision to make, especially in light of the strictures of financial fair play. Although PSG appear to be fairly nonchalant about the sanctions imposed on them by UEFA for failing to abide by FFP guidelines, Chelsea are adamant that they will play by the rules. In order to do so, they must sell before they can buy rather than simply hoarding talent and leaving it to gather dust.

There are key areas of the squad that need strengthening and transfer fees received totalling almost 100 million pounds from the sales of Mata, Luiz and Kevin De Bruyne this year alone will go a long way to helping Chelsea do just that.

The search for a top-class striker is well documented but they don't come cheap. Even a prosaic if potent option such as Diego Costa costs north of 30 million pounds, and should another be deemed necessary then the outlay will almost certainly double. Likewise, Chelsea's interest in Spain-based left-backs Alberto Moreno and Filipe Luis is likely to cost them at least 15 million pounds while the search for a top-class central midfielder will probably require an outlay of up to 40 million.

It might seem strange that Chelsea are thinking of offloading a player that can play in midfield only to buy another, although with the money received for Luiz, the Blues could buy someone that is a more natural fit in that role. The Brazilian has been shoehorned into midfield out of necessity and has done reasonably well, but he is not as well rounded as those that the Blues have been linked with. Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal, Cesc Fabregas, Koke and Paulinho have all been linked; and while they possess differing qualities, they are the finished article rather than Luiz's work in progress.

Ultimately, though, the value to Chelsea of this proposed sale will only be known when the transfer window closes. Should they capture the firepower they so desperately need along with a marquee midfielder then it will be deemed a success. Invest purely in players marked down for development and the Blues will be all the poorer even if financially richer.

As for the man himself, the enthusiasm and whole-hearted approach that he has always exhibited will certainly be missed by Chelsea fans even if his occasionally errant judgement and overly rugged approach will not. The genuine affection that he has always showed for the club and the way in which he jumped into life in London with both feet -- like some of his naughtier tackles -- meant that supporters instantly took him to their hearts.

Some cynics might choose to remember his time in West London through his slip against Manchester United in 2011 that ultimately sent the title to Old Trafford or his misreading of a pass that allowed Jordon Mutch to give Cardiff City the lead at Stamford Bridge last autumn. But that would be extremely churlish.

Instead, amid the rampaging runs from deep and that howitzer against Fulham, the abiding memory should  always be his performance in the Champions League final in Munich.  Having not played for a month due to an injury sustained in the FA Cup semifinal win over Tottenham, Luiz put in an almost-faultless display despite ostensibly playing on one leg. He capped the night off by smashing a penalty past Manuel Neuer high into the net to get Chelsea off the mark in the shootout and we all know how that night ended.

Luiz will leave the club as one of their European Cup heroes and for that he will always be warmly remembered and indelibly etched into the history of Chelsea Football Club.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell