One of the brightest spots among many for Chelsea FC this season has been the fine play of Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic since his arrival from Benfica in January. Matic was part of the Chelsea loan system and spent some time at Vitesse Arnhem before being sold to Benfica as part of the David Luiz deal in January of 2011. At the time it was clear that he had the physical tools to compete in the Premier League but he had not been given the chance to prove himself in a Chelsea shirt. The move to Benfica allowed him to grow and develop in to one of the finest defensive midfielders in Europe.
Matic on his move to Benfica and how it helped him improve:
“That’s why it was important for me to go away, to grow. I feel different than I felt three years ago. I always believed I had the right qualities and style of play for the Premier League. Maybe if I stayed at Chelsea, I don’t play like I do now – maybe I play better, maybe I play worse, you never know. But, for me, in that moment it was good to go and play. I learned a lot at Benfica, which is one of the biggest clubs in the world; not only how to play that central-midfield position, but I learned to play with pressure. There is a lot of that at the club, just like there is at Chelsea, and it was good for me to go. Now it is very nice to be back. It’s a pleasure to be part of this team and to work with these players and coaches. All the people have been helping me since I came back and I’m very happy.”
Matic has had no trouble fitting in during his second stint at the club and he attributes his relationship with fellow Serb Branislav Ivanovic for helping him transition. He has become an automatic first choice for manager Jose Mourinho in the Premier League and will surely be the same next year when he is no longer cup tied for the Champions League. Many pundits and fans mocked Chelsea for paying triple what they sold Matic for originally to bring him back to the club but if he keeps it up it will turn out to be one of the finer pieces of business Mourinho and Chelsea have done.
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