When David Luiz sat down across the table from Roman Abramovich to discuss the future, he did not find a distant owner, someone remote and losing interest in Chelsea.
He found Abramovich was still burning with the same passion for the club as he was eight years ago when he first lured Luiz to Stamford Bridge and promised to turn his dreams into reality.
‘He has been away but his heart is here,’ said Luiz. ‘He loves this club. He is the one who built Chelsea. Everything at Chelsea changed because of him. The results speak for themselves. Fifteen trophies in 15 years. He came here to do something amazing and he did it.
‘I had the opportunity to talk with him last week, to decide my future. He loves the club and everything that is inside the club, not just the people. He wants to win everything. He is still in love with the club and wants to do more.
‘It is difficult for him, but his heart is with us, he tries to be involved every single day. He is still really passionate for the club. He is still thinking in the same way. He has the same hunger, thinking about winning. He doesn’t want to lose energy.’
Abramovich has been absent this season, the first since his UK visa was not renewed, but he is expected in Boston to see Chelsea take on New England Revolution in a game billed as ‘The Final Whistle on Hate’ at the Gillette Stadium, home of Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots. The game is an initiative of Abramovich and Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the Patriots and founder of the Revs, who came together to raise awareness and support for the fight against anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.
Proceeds will benefit organisations including the World Jewish Congress, the Tree of Life synagogue, the Anti-Defamation League and the Holocaust Educational Trust. The two owners will personally donate more than £770,000 each to the cause.
‘It is important,’ said Luiz, who joined Chelsea players and staff for a moment of remembrance at the Holocaust Memorial in Boston, after training at Harvard University yesterday.
‘It is important for the owner, and for the coach and for the club. It is important for the cause.
‘Discrimination has happened around the world for many years and it is up to us to teach our kids to respect everybody in the same way. Nobody is different. It doesn’t matter the colour of the skin or the religion or the social class.
‘People discriminate because they think they are different. This is the big fault in life. Nobody is different and football gives us the opportunity to show that.
‘God brought me from Brazil to be successful in England, an amazing country at an amazing club that makes many people happy around the world. How great is that? This is what life is about. I am here today with people of many nationalities, different life stories, all working for the same cause, living the same day, breathing the same oxygen. It’s much better if we understand we are all the same. Football teaches a lot.’
At 32, Luiz has matured into a leader. Multi-lingual and naturally exuberant, he connects cultures inside the multi-national world of modern football. He has won the biggest prizes, suffered setbacks and criticism. He has signed for two more years at Stamford Bridge, although he laughs off the notion he is a ‘father figure’.
‘Older brother is better,’ he quips. ‘Chelsea is inside my heart. Chelsea gave me the opportunity to live my best moments in football. I came here to a big team with legends in the dressing room, and I won the Champions League.
‘It means a lot to me to sign a new contract. I had some other options but I always look to try to find a new challenge in my life —that’s why I moved to Paris and that’s why I moved back because I saw the chance to fight for the Premier League.
‘I can see the challenge is here. That’s why I signed again. I want to do more for this club. I want Chelsea to fight again for the Champions League and the Premier League. We want it again. And we are not far away.
‘If we don’t think this way we are not as big a club as Chelsea should be. Also, we have to stay humble and train hard because to fight for the title we have to improve, score more goals, concede less.’
Chelsea finished their first Premier League campaign under Maurizio Sarri in third place, 26 points behind runaway champions Manchester City. But they are back in the Champions League and still have the chance to claim another major trophy when they face Arsenal in the Europa League final in Baku.
‘We did amazing,’ said Luiz. ‘Especially with the first year for a new coach, and not an easy year for anybody. Nobody expected Chelsea to finish third. Everybody thought we were going to be out of the Champions League.
‘We qualified with one game still to play. We finished in third, we are fighting for the Europa League and we lost the League Cup on penalties, a competition where we beat Liverpool and Tottenham and were the better side against Manchester City in the final.’
Even the prospect of a transfer ban cannot dissuade the centre half good times lie ahead. The young talent includes academy graduates Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
‘We have top-class players and we have good young players,’ said Luiz. ‘Ruben has had the best season of his career. Callum was doing amazing until his injury.
‘This is a talented generation at Chelsea and I believe in them. I love players like Reece James, and Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount.
‘For me they have the level to be with us and try to help the team. It is a big opportunity for Chelsea to bring back these young players, especially because they are English. We can build some legends for the club.’