Nemanja Matic (Estimated Cost: £21m, Market Value: £22.45m) 25 Years old: Left-footed Defensive Midfielder
Strengths: The first thing people notice about Matic is his size. Standing 6’4″, Matic will be Chelsea’s biggest player upon arrival (with the exception of goalkeepers). He adds serious muscle to the midfield as he will also be one of Chelsea’s strongest players in the squad. His size and strength are not his best ability though – he is known for being a superior playmaker from the middle of the pitch. Matic led Benfica in accurate long balls, showing a great passing range. Other strong qualities include a high defensive work rate, above average ball possession skills, an aggressive defensive mentality and the ability to win the ball back. Matic is arguably one of the most well-rounded defensive midfielders in the entire world.
Weaknesses: Matic does not have many weaknesses but he is known to receive quite a few bookings to go along with his aggressive mentality. Matic has become better in front of goal but still does not provide much of a threat himself. Matic is not an overly fast or agile player, either, but that is not really expected of a player his size.
Need to Knows:
- Everyone has heard by now that Chelsea paid more for a player they let go years ago but there is a lot more to the story. As part of the Luiz deal Benfica was willing to accept Jeffrey Bruma, Patrick van Aanholt, Nemanja Matic or Slobodan Rajkovic. Then Sporting Director Frank Arnesen refused to include Bruma or PvA and Matic was picked by Benfica, with Rajkovic being seen as unstable.
- The Head Scout in charge of Matic’s assessment in 2009 was Michael Emenalo, Chelsea’s current Sporting Director.
- Matic earned his first cap for Serbia at the age of 20 while still playing for Slovakian team Kosice.
- Matic spent time at both Partizan and Red Star’s academy teams (the two biggest teams in Serbia) but neither team offered him a professional contract.
- Jedinstvo Ub (in his home town of Ub) picked him up where he was on a team that was relegated from the Second Division of Serbia. Matic was barely able to break into the first team.
- Matic quit the Serbian National Team in December 2012 during a feud with Sinisa Mihajlovic before returning to the team in September 2013. He has just 8 caps.
- The President of Kosice was so sure of Matic’s talent that he did not want to sell him to Chelsea in 2009 until Chelsea offered to pay the full fee upfront, a rarity in modern day football.
- Matic finished 2nd in the FIFA Puskas Award for goal of the season in 2013, scoring a volley against rivals Porto in the Portuguese Classico.
- Matic also won the award for Portuguese Player of the Year in 2012/13 and League Player of the Month 3 times that season.
Overall Grade: A-. Other supporters have said that Chelsea were foolish to pay for a player that they let go for almost nothing a few years ago. Buying Matic now for £21m is no different than if Chelsea slapped a buyback clause on him when he was initially sold. In addition to that, the people around during his first spell, Ancelotti and Arnesen, are both gone while Mourinho and Emenalo both value Matic’s abilities. Add in the fact that Portugal are known to be tough with their transfer fees and that plenty of other teams were interested in him. With a buyout clause of €50m, Chelsea paid far less than any other team would have if they did business with Benfica (there are rumors that it is somehow linked with Markovic’s summer move).
So with all the silliness aside from other fans that know nothing about Chelsea’s dealings, Matic turned out to be a heck of a steal. He is exactly what Chelsea needed with an aging Lampard and Essien. Chelsea filled their biggest need with a major upgrade.
The only concern I have with Matic is how well he will fit with Ramires. Traditionally no defensive midfielder has paired exceptionally well with Ramires. After seeing Toure and Fernandinho play well together for Manchester City, there is hope with the similarity in Chelsea’s duo. Matic might be best paired with Mikel though with both players pretty similar in style. It is just a matter of time before Matic is featuring week in and week out for Chelsea.