The Evolution of Nemanja Matic
Chelsea were aptly declared the “autumn champions” by manager Jose Mourinho as the Blues maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a 2-1 win at Liverpool.
It’s that fusion of quality and resilience that might just set the Stamford Bridge side apart from their rivals this year. A superior attacking force strengthened by a strong defense and a central midfield that has flourished more than anything this season. Cesc Fabregas has rightfully deserved applauds with the staggering amount of assists he is piling up every game yet, it’s Nemanja Matic who’s making all the difference in central midfield.Here we give you all the insights and tell you Everything about Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic .
He won’t take your breath away with his skill neither will he be chipping in with a bundle of goals but his importance to Chelsea in the games that matter is beyond question. Anfield didn’t bother him and in the same way he never batted an eyelid at the Etihad Stadium or Old Trafford.
The 26-year-old Serbian looks like the prototype midfielder every top side needs. Strong in the tackle, comfortable with the ball at his feet. Very few players succeed with a second bite at playing for a former club, with Matic’s midfield partner Fabregas’ time at Barcelona a decent example. Having something to prove to your club does not always work towards eventual success.
The early years:
On 18 August 2009, Matic signed for Chelsea from MFK Kosice for a fee of around £1.8 million in a four-year contract, having been on trial at Middlesbrough. Initially a playmaker, Matic was benched for most of his early Chelsea career after picking up a major injury and, made just one Premier League appearance coming on as a substitute against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
After a brief loan spell at Dutch club Vitesse, the Serbian was transferred to Portuguese club Benfica in 2011 along with €25 million in a swap deal for Brazilian center back David Luiz. Under Benfica manager Jorge Jesus, Matic was converted from a playmaker into a defensive midfielder. The Serbian has since gone on to forge a reputation as one of the best holding midfielders in the game.
“Matic is a player who gives balance to a team. He is someone with a great positioning and he is intelligent in the way he moves and passes the ball. He is an outstanding player.” – Rui Costa, Benfica’s sporting director, told Sportsmail earlier this year.
The 26-year-old was pre-eminent during the Europa League final against his former employers which caught the attention of top clubs in Europe. Estimates suggest Chelsea lost £17m buying back the midfielder compared to his sale price. This is not generally considered smart business but, in the case of Matic, things appear to have worked out for the best.
He returned in January of this year for around £21 million and has looked more than capable of breaking the ancient footballing adage of “never go back.” Nemanja Matic benefited from returning as a very different player in a different position to that who left. He departed as a playmaker but returned as a defensive midfielder and exhibited his immense experience and talent. The 6’4″ Serbian was instrumental in the huge 1-0 win at Manchester City last season, keeping the dangerous Yaya Toure off the ball throughout 90 minutes and, made City look toothless.
Nemanja Matic vs Manchester City
Toure was one of the best midfielders last season. Manchester City faced a defiant Chelsea team but; it was Matic who performed the best of the lot. The Serbian put in a fantastic shift full of energy, power and steel. He kept Yaya Toure in his pocket; his passing was crisp, sharp and accurate.
The manner in which he adapted to Chelsea’s style of play in less than a month started every Football pundit. Matic was vital when it came to Chelsea defending their own box with a total of nine successful clearances against City. The Serbian international also won 75% of his tackles and 50% of his ground duels. Matic’s dreadnought presence showed how a true defensive midfielder should operate for his team
“At this moment, he’s a giant,not for his size but for the way he plays. The man is a giant.” – Jose Mourinho after his win against Liverpool
Matic ranks among the top six midfielders in the Premier League for tackles, clearances, headed clearances and recoveries. Since his return, we have seen him dominate midfield in a manner that has become habitual. His arrival has proved an upgrade on John Obi Mikel, a player who has served Chelsea well but could never be the destroyer that Matic proved at Anfield.
Mourinho once had Claude Makelele, he of the “The Makelele Role” This time around he has Matic, and the Premier League’s ailing contenders do not have an equivalent. He is not an artist, but, of all signings Mourinho has made since returning to Stamford Bridge; his decision to bring back the 26-year-old from Benfica for a second spell might just be the smartest.
Edited By: Tamojit Chakraborty