CHARLOTTE — Ahead of the International Champions Cup friendly between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, former Blues defender David Luiz took some time to discuss his experience playing in the United States so far.
With news of PSG teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s desire to play in Major League Soccer at the end of his European career, Luiz echoed Ibrahimovic’s positive sentiments about the growth of soccer in the United States, predicting that a host of top European players will likely be making their way to the U.S. in the near future, including possibly even him.
“You can see MLS is growing up a lot,” Luiz told ProSoccerTalk. “The next five, ten years here [the United States] will be the future for many many players. [Zlatan] is older than me, so he can speak more about it than me, but it is a pleasure to be here. I think the American people know how to make a show, and they start to love soccer now as they love baseball, basketball, and American football.”
He said those positive feelings have had an impact on him and his teammates, and that those good vibes about the game in the States are swaying his thoughts about his future.
“It’s always very nice to be here,” Luiz said. “The atmosphere here, whether it’s a friendly match or a tournament is very, very nice. Like I said, it can be the future for many, many players, so why not for me? The quality of life here for families and for everybody is very nice.”
He did offer one suggestion for the growth of soccer in the United States, one that is hardly surprising coming from a player who has been immersed all his life in traditional soccer powerhouses.
“The passion can come when you have one organization,” Luiz said. “You need to have a competition for the first league, for the second league. Now you don’t have that, the teams that play in the first division play in the first division, so I think you need to have this to grow up.”
In other words, he supports promotion/relegation.
Luiz also pointed towards the academies as a place that could continue to grow to get youth players flowing through on a regular basis, but agreed the national team is on a level that forces top opponents to take it seriously. “They are preparing themselves for that [a jump to the top level],” Luiz said. “They have proven that the last few years. They have a great coach, he knows about football so that’s why they improve a lot, and I think it is about the passion about soccer in this country now. Everybody is starting to love soccer as they love different sports, so that’s why it’s going up.”
The 28-year-old Brazilian has always been one of the most accessible players in Europe for fans, and that was no different in Charlotte. From the moment he stepped off the bus, he was the only PSG player who spent more than a moment signing autographs for awaiting fans. Up in the hotel he was approached by a kid from Indianapolis whose parents drove all night to get him to the game, and the boy hoped to get Luiz’s autograph for his 10th birthday. He ended up with an autograph, a picture, and a 5-minute conversation with the defender that left the child beaming from ear to ear.
“I love to say thank you, because without them [the fans] we are nothing,” Luiz said wholeheartedly. “I need to have these kind of moments with kids, we need to be available for them – first of all I love it, but also they [the fans] deserve it. Not too many players like to do this kind of thing, but lots of players love to play in front of a full stadium, so you need to be intelligent, because they go hand in hand.”