PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery has admitted he didn’t want defender David Luiz to leave the club as the French champions prepare to host Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1 on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
The Brazil centre-back was surprisingly sold back to former club Chelsea for a reported £32 million ($42.7 million, 38 million euros) on transfer deadline day, two years after he had moved in the opposite direction.
His farewell appearance in a Paris shirt saw him give away a penalty before being substituted in the second half of the 3-1 defeat to Monaco just before the international break.
With compatriots Marquinhos and Thiago Silva expected to usurp him in the pecking order once they returned to contention, Luiz was likely to lose his place in the team, but Emery did not anticipate losing such an experienced player altogether.
“I told him that I didn’t want him to go and that he was important. But if he is not happy and he thinks it’s better to leave, I respect that,” Emery told RMC radio this week.
Luiz was back at the PSG training ground to say his goodbyes this week as his now former team-mates prepared for the visit of Les Verts to the Parc des Princes.
The defeat to Monaco has placed Spanish coach Emery under increased scrutiny with PSG currently very much a work in progress compared to the well-oiled machine of Laurent Blanc and Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season that did not lose a league match until the end of February.
However, a victory against Saint-Etienne would set the capital club up nicely before the home clash with Arsenal in their Champions League Group A opener next Tuesday.
One man hoping to start for the first time this season will be midfielder Blaise Matuidi after the former Saint-Etienne player saw a proposed transfer to Italian champions Juventus fall through.
“Who is the best player when it comes to applying pressure and winning the ball back? It’s Matuidi. It was important that he stayed with us. And he told me that he was happy to stay here,” Emery said.
PSG have won their last nine meetings with Christophe Galtier’s Saint-Etienne, who drew 0-0 at home to Toulouse in their last outing.
Saint-Etienne, who go to German Bundesliga side Mainz in the Europa League next week, travel with a full squad and Jordan Veretout could start for the first time since returning to French football from Aston Villa.
“PSG are not properly settled yet, with a new coach and a new philosophy. They have had players who have been travelling (on international duty) and there may be some absentees,” said Galtier.
“As the season goes on they will improve. I am daring to hope that they will do so after we play them.”
Elsewhere this weekend Lyon host Bordeaux on Saturday hoping August’s player of the month Alexandre Lacazette, who has six goals to his name already, will be fit after a minor injury kept him out of the France squad.
However, Mathieu Valbuena and Nabil Fekir will be missing for the game at the Parc OL.
Monaco, France’s other Champions League representatives, are at Lille on Saturday while Nice host Marseille in a Mediterranean derby on Sunday.
The game at the Allianz Riviera could see Mario Balotelli make his Nice debut after the wayward Italian striker joined on a free from Liverpool on transfer deadline day.