Player profile: Is Chelsea's latest signing Nemanja Matic really worth £21m?

The Serbia international has completed his return to Stamford Bridge

Chelsea have completed the purchase of Nemanja Matic from Benfica, for a fee of £20.75m, three years after selling him in the opposite direction.

The Serbia midfielder signed a five-and-a-half-year deal and will have a crucial role as Chelsea try to secure their first Premier League title since 2009-10.

While many say that Jose Mourinho’s squad most obviously lacks centre-forwards, their lack of quality in front of the back four is at least as much of a problem. The arrival of Matic, vastly improved as a player in his two and a half years in Portugal, should help with that.

During Matic’s first spell at Chelsea – he arrived from MFK Kosice soon after his 21st birthday – he made just three substitute appearances and clearly did not feature highly in Carlo Ancelotti’s plans. Matic was loaned out to Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands, then used as a makeweight in the deal to bring David Luiz from Benfica, along with £20m.

Matic improved so much during his time in Portugal that he now justifies his big-money price tag, and is certain to improve Chelsea’s midfield. When Matic arrived at Benfica, he was used to playing in central or even attacking midfield, and generally sat on the bench behind Javi Garcia.

But in the summer of 2012 Benfica sold Garcia to Manchester City and then Axel Witsel to Zenit St Petersburg, and needed a new defensive midfielder. Matic was drafted into the role and instantly showed his class, helping Benfica to forget about Garcia quickly.

Last season was Matic’s true breakthrough year, as he helped Benfica to a painful second-place league finish, one point behind Porto; the final of the Europa League, which they lost to Chelsea in stoppage time; and the semi-finals of the Portuguese cup. Despite winning no trophies, Matic took the Portuguese player of the year prize.

Close observers of Matic in Portugal speak very warmly of his performances, saying that the €25m fee is cheap for a player who could have been sold for €35m or more.

One Portuguese reporter described Matic as “like Essien with skills” and there is certainly a confidence that he will improve Chelsea’s midfield options.

Frank Lampard is not as sharp as he used to be while Jon Obi Mikel has had a quiet season, and some authority and class in central midfield is just what Chelsea need. Ramires is the first choice there but he is often moved wide into a 4-3-3 system for difficult away games, a process Matic would help with.

Mourinho, who has not worked with Matic before, said he was delighted to have the much-improved player in his squad for the second half of the season. “I am very pleased that Nemanja is returning to Chelsea,” he said. “He has grown as a player in Portugal and has become a fantastic all-round midfielder. I am sure he will become a very important member of the squad and help us to achieve our ambitions.”

Matic was also pleased to be back at Chelsea, where he will be eligible for Premier League and FA Cup games this season but not for the Champions League due to his participation in the European competition with Benfica.

“I am very happy for this opportunity to be back at this club,” he said. “I feel very good because of that and just want to say I will give my best to help the team and make the Chelsea fans happy.”

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower