Chelsea paid £15.8m for Brazilian full back Filipe Luis, who has yet to start in the Premier League.
Filipe Luis’ switch to Chelsea was one of the stranger transfers of the summer window. Amongst Chelsea’s shrewd and profitable ins-and-outs, paying close to sixteen million pounds for a player who turned 29 shortly after the move seemed out of place.
Following the departures of Ashley Cole and Ryan Bertrand a left-back was needed, but such an expensive bid for an older player was unexpected. This surprise has been compounded by his lack of minutes in the first few games of the season. After an outstanding season at left-back last year, Cesar Azpilicueta has retained his spot in the Chelsea first team. The Spaniard, whose preferred position on the right is occupied by Mourinho favourite Ivanovic, has shown no signs of surrendering his place.
Chelsea Players Shirt Sales – See which Blues stars have sold the most shirts.
Chelsea Talent – Which Chelsea youngsters will make the breakthrough this season?
Chelsea Aston Villa defender comparison – Compare the two starting centre-backs.
With talented, younger players like Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodriguez available, it seemed odd that Chelsea bought an expensive player at their peak only to leave them on the bench. Luis, who has only started the 1-1 draw against Schalke and last night’s Capital One Cup clash with Bolton, has insisted he is happy to bide his time and wait for his chance to break into the first team.
“Everyone wants to play,” Luis told the Evening Standard. “If you don’t normally you’re not happy. But when I came here, I spoke with Mourinho and I knew I’d come to Chelsea to be a champion, not to be the best left-back”.
Evidently Luis understands that for clubs like Chelsea football is no longer about a single 11; it is about squad composition and balance. Mourinho spoke in the summer about Luis’ experience, important for helping his “little horses” grow after the departure of older players like Cole and Lampard.
As well as depth and top level experience, Luis gives Mourinho new tactical options. Azpilicueta is an excellent one-on-one defender, and has outstanding speed and stamina. In games against the big sides last year he performed exceptionally well, winning person battles against some of the best wingers in the world. Mourinho himself said in March that the Spaniard was “unbeatable… for many, many matches I haven’t seen one player beat Azpilicueta in an individual duel.”
But it wasn’t in the big games that Chelsea struggled last year, it was against the smaller sides that they dropped points. This is where Luis comes in. While Azpilicueta’s right-footedness is useful when defending against wingers who look to cut inside, it limits him going forward. Luis is a far more attacking option, and his overlapping runs and crosses were vital for Atletico in their fantastic season last year. In the Schalke game last week, Luis got forward repeatedly, getting more touches on the ball than most of Chelsea’s midfielders and overlapping when Hazard cut inside. He played several dangerous crosses, and a sharper Drogba would have doubled Chelsea’s lead from one of them.
Luis is happy to be second choice in the big games for now. He knows that if he continues to perform when he starts, he will get his chance in the first team, just as Azpilicueta did last year. As Mourinho has told him, when it comes to winning trophies, it is the collective that matters.