Sport Soccer

Thursday 22 March 2018

Chelsea splash out £22m for old boy Matic as De Bruyne exits

Benfica's Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic, who is poised to make a return to Chelsea
Benfica's Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic, who is poised to make a return to Chelsea

Matt Law and Jeremy Wilson

Nemanja Matic is due to undergo a medical today ahead of completing a return to Chelsea.

The midfielder was valued at less than £5m when he left Stamford Bridge as part of the deal that took David Luiz to Chelsea from Benfica.

Just three years later, Chelsea are poised to re-sign Matic for around £22m and, barring any hitches, he could replace Luiz in the team to face Manchester United on Sunday.

Jose Mourinho was keen to land a new central midfield enforcer and the Chelsea manager has no qualms about bringing back Matic, particularly as he did not initially sign or sell the Serbian. Chelsea are convinced Matic has developed into a much better player than the one who was struggling to get games at Stamford Bridge.

They will also argue that the only way to get Luiz was to allow Matic to go to Portugal as part of the £23.5m deal. Luiz played in central midfield in the victory against Hull City, where Matic will be expected to establish himself alongside Ramires.

Chelsea's financial hit on Matic has been offset in some part by the £18m they have collected from German club Wolfsburg for Kevin de Bruyne, who joined the Blues for £7m from Genk two years ago and made just nine senior appearances.

Sources in Portugal claim that Matic will sign an initial contract with Chelsea to 2017, but that may contain the option of a further year. The 25-year-old had a £37m buy-out clause in his Benfica contract, but financial pressures meant that the Portuguese club could not hold out for that fee.

Matic initially joined Chelsea for just £1.5m from MFK Kosice in 2009 and he played three senior games before being loaned out to Vitesse Arnhem and then sold to Benfica.

Ahead of the Europa League final last season, in which Matic played for Benfica against Chelsea, Branislav Ivanovic praised the improvement in his Serbian international team-mate.

"There is a lot of positive news about Nemanja and he is improving a lot," Ivanovic said. "When he was at Chelsea, you saw he has the qualities to be a top player, but he needed to play and he decided the best option for him was to move to Portugal."

De Bruyne will sign a contract to 2019 with Wolfsburg, having only managed two Premier League starts under Mourinho and been criticised for a poor display in the League Cup clash against Swindon Town.

Mourinho has boldly warned Chelsea's Premier League opponents that his team will not peak until next season and 2015-16, but will then replicate the wave of success that the club has enjoyed over the past decade.

Despite the absence of a prolific striker, Chelsea remain only one point behind title favourites Manchester City and, should they maintain that challenge, Mourinho believes that this squad's collective development will accelerate significantly.

Chelsea have won 11 major trophies since Mourinho began his first spell at the club in 2004 and he says that the foundations are being laid for a similar period of sustained success.

"We will see if we can fight for the title," Mourinho said. "It's important we do because it accelerates the development of the players, it brings to their lives something new, to have the responsibility of having to win every game.

"Normally I'd say the second and third seasons together are the best ones. But it is Chelsea's mentality, my DNA, to try to challenge now.

"I built a Chelsea team that lasted seven, eight years and was in place to fight for titles even after my departure. I know that I'm going to do the same." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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