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Return of the King

History has a very funny way of repeating itself.

In August of 2004, Michael Owen, announced that he wanted a transfer Real Madrid. He ended up moving to the club for a paltry sum of £8m. Not only did a local boy turn his back on the club that made him the player he was and force the move to the Spanish capital, but in return the club essentially received pocket change. Now this was a very tough pill to swallow for the club and supporters alike, but his departing words (and his eventual move to United, of all places) are what destroyed his legend status, and earned him the tag ‘Judas’. “I would like to say a special thank you for being given the opportunity to play for the best team in the world.”

But fate can be a very cruel thing to the coward. The “feeder club” that Mr. Owen had left went on to be crowned kings of Europe in the most dramatic of fashion. Captain Fantastic and a much more spry Jamie Carragher will receive most of the plaudits for the victory over Milan, but the Istanbul final may never have been if it wasn’t for the heroics of the man brought in to help replace Owen: Luis Garcia.

Standing 5’10 with a rather slight build, he was by no means the most imposing of players. But as Mark Twain wrote, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Luis was the Derek Jeter of Champions League football. When the occasion arrived to stand up and be counted, you needn’t look further than Liverpool’s Spanish number 10. King Luis scored two massive, massive winners against both Juventus and that blue team from London without any history, whose name escapes me at this time. The winner against Juventus was a brilliantly struck volley from next to nothing, knocking out, who at the time was one of the tournament favorites. The goal against the Chavs, was admittedly less brilliant, but is, in my opinion one of the most significant goals in Liverpool history.

But King Luis not only showed his class on the pitch but off it as well. In the summer of 2007, his proposed move to Athletico Madrid (as a makeway for my next subject) was completed. Upon leaving Luis delivered a letter to the club and supporters about his time with the club, and what we all meant to him, and there’s one section that stick out to me the most.

“A football club isn’t just made up of players, coaches and directors. More than anything else it’s the supporters who make a club, and that perhaps is the ingredient which best distinguishes Liverpool Football Club from every other team. The supporters. Because if one thing has remained obvious to me after these few years, it’s that with supporters like you, Liverpool Football Club will never walk alone.”

Luis Garcia gets it.  He understands what it means to be a Red, gave everything to the club, and most importantly appreciated and respected us. In the body of this letter, King Luis showed more class than either Michael Owen, Steve McManaman, or Fernando Torres could ever dream to in their entire life. That’s why you’re a legend, Luis.

Several years have passed and we Reds find ourselves in a similar position. Our former golden boy, Fernando Torres, or Judas mark II has turned his back on the club for the plastic landscape that is west London. Not only does this seem an eerily similar situation, but the departing words bring up even more bad memories of Owen. “This is the target for every footballer – to try to play for one of the top clubs in the world. They [Chelsea] are one of the biggest teams in Europe and are always fighting for everything.” At the time, everything seemed pretty bleak, but as mentioned earlier, fate is a funny thing. We now have a new hope and a new Luis to celebrate. If his performance against United is anything to go off of, we may have a King Luis II on our hands, who could lead us to similar glories. There’s big hopes, and only time will tell.

Written by: Geoff Stellfox

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David Luiz: Abramovich Gets It Right This Time

Roman Abramovich is anything but shy when it comes to the transfer market. After all, here’s a man who paid a combined 48.43 pounds for Didier Drogba and Michael Essien and most recently splashed 50 million pounds for the purchase of Fernando Torres from Liverpool. Drogba and Essien have been integral figures in Chelsea’s recent success, and despite his stuttering start, few will be betting against Torres to have a similar impact.

Abramovich’s money has not always been well spent, however. In May 2006, Chelsea bought Andriy Shevchenko from AC Milan for 30.8 million pounds. Soon later Shaun Wright-Phillips arrived from Manchester City for 21 million pounds. Both players failed to live up to their price tags and both players returned to their previous clubs with a sense of disappointment hanging over their heads, as well as that of the Chelsea owner. Who could blame him though, especially after great things had been promised, particularly for the Ukraine forward.

“I think Shevchenko is the type of player we would like. At the end of the day to improve what we have got, it has to be a great player and Shevchenko certainly comes into that class.” These were the words of Peter Kenyon, Chelsea’s Chief Executive.

Fast forward to January, 2011 and similar things were being promised for another mega signing by Abramovich.

“He is one of the great defensive prospects in world football,” Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay said. “I am sure he will prove a valuable addition to the Chelsea squad.”

Also adding to the hype was Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck, who claimed: “It is a delight to have completed this transfer for a fantastic young footballer who we have admired for some time and will hopefully serve us well for the rest of this season and going forward.”

This time, however, Chelsea appears like being spot on in their assessment of their latest acquisition: David Luiz Moreira Marinho.

The 23-year-old Brazilian international, purchased for 21 million pounds from Benfica, already looks like being a bargain buy for Chelsea. His performances for the reigning champions have already caught the eye and few players have managed to justify their price tag as quickly as Luiz has. In the short span of a month he has proven that not only can he handle the demands of the Premier League, but he can excel as a strong defender who is a big danger going forward. Simply ask Manchester United.

Luiz has demonstrated an admirable work rate and impressive ability and composure with the ball at his feet. It has quickly become apparent how much the former Benfica centre-back enjoys bringing the ball forward from the back and setting up attacks for his side. Luiz may have only scored four goals in 72 appearances for the Lisbon club, but he is more than willing to get forward and is fairly capable in front of goal, especially for a defender.

Judging by his three performances so far, Luiz may be exactly what Chelsea need to finally turn the corner. His debut consisted of a half-hour substitute cameo in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool and although he conceded a last minute penalty in his next match against Fulham, Luiz was still awarded with the Barclays Man of the Match award. His performance against Manchester United, which included the equalizing goal, was worthy of a second Man of the Match – although some will argue he was slightly fortunate not to be sent off for a second yellow card for a foul on Wayne Rooney.

Luiz’ performances certainly haven’t been flawless, but they have been more than enough to prove his quality. With the more games he plays, the more experience he’ll gain and learn how to cut out the mistakes in his game, such as an over eagerness to dive right in and a tendency to stick too close to his man. Overall, Chelsea has found themselves a top notch defender and a real difference maker, not just on the defensive end.

Written by: Jeff Harbert

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