David Luiz can 'become one of the world's best defenders' - Conte
LONDON -- Antonio Conte believes deadline day signing David Luiz will need time to adapt to the philosophy he has brought to Chelsea, but insists the 29-year-old is "a fantastic age to become one of the best defenders in the world."
Luiz made a shock return to Stamford Bridge in the final hours of the transfer window in a deal reportedly worth around £34 million, just two years after Paris Saint-Germain made him the most expensive defender ever when they paid £50m to take him from Stamford Bridge.
The deal, struck after Chelsea had been frustrated in their lengthy summer pursuit of Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly and several other defensive targets in Serie A, raised eyebrows and Conte admitted Luiz's return was driven by the Blues' increasing desperation for defensive reinforcements in the final days and hours of the transfer window.
But the Italian is adamant that Luiz, even as he approaches his 30th birthday, can still adapt and improve his game to reach new heights in his second spell at Chelsea.
"I must be honest, we have bought David Luiz because we need a centre-back," Conte said. "This transfer market was very difficult for us to reach our targets, but at the last minute, on the last day, there was this situation which was good for me and the club to improve the squad. For this reason, we bought David Luiz.
"We invested in David, and I'm very happy. We took a player with a great personality, good technique, likes to play. I like to play football and I like defenders who like to play football.
"We know that David can improve in defensive situations, but it's good and I'm very happy he stays here. He's a good guy, a positive guy for the changing room. I'm very pleased for this.
"I think that every player, until the end of their career, can improve. Every player. Also when you are 32, 33, 36... You can always improve. I tell you this from my experience as a footballer.
"I think that David Luiz is 29, a fantastic age for him to become one of the best defenders in the world. I'm seeing great commitment from him. He wants to play for Chelsea. This is a great opportunity for him and for us, also to improve."
Luiz and fellow deadline day signing Marcos Alonso began training with the rest of the Chelsea squad at Cobham this week, and Conte warns that both will need time to adapt to his system and earn places in his starting XI.
Asked if he expected Luiz or Alonso to start against Swansea City on Sunday, Conte said: "I think that the new players need a bit of time to work with a new method, a new philosophy, a new idea of football. It's important to give them a bit of time to go into the ideas [I want]. For this reason, I think the chance to play at the start is not high."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.