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Nemanja Matic no John Terry or Wayne Rooney

Friday 18th August 2017
Given his impact during Chelsea's two most recent title runs, one must ask why the Blues were so ambivalent regarding Nemanja Matic. The answer is simple. Money.

This is not a debate on the Serbian's relative talent. He's a midfielder. Rooney and Terry are, respectively, a forward and defender. We'd be talking apples, oranges, and kiwis. Instead, this is about value to club or, more precisely, why contemporary club executives can do without the proverbial club legend.

Oh, in case you're wondering, Wazza would be the kiwi, because fuzzy and Hair Club.
Nemanja Matic is, without debate, a consummate defensive midfielder. He dresses his steely game in fine silk, making him dangerous on both sides of the ball. That said, he's been sold twice by Chelsea. What gives?

Admittedly, the first sale was before Matic matured. He went to Benfica as a makeweight in the £21 million deal for David Luiz. He was 22 at the time, on loan with Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem. The Blues were giving up an unproven talent to gain a proven one.

Proven for everyone other than Jose Mourinho, of course. When the Portuguese returned to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2014, he quickly repurchased the Serb from Benfica for £22 million, parlaying the cost by sending Kevin de Bruyne to Wolfsburg for £18 million. That winter, he sold Luiz to PSG for a defender's world-record £50 million. The Special One obviously prefers steel to silk.

Although people ridicule his judgment regarding Luiz, De Bruyne, and a younger Romelu Lukaku, three Premier league titles in roughly six seasons managed suggests those people are:

(you decide)

a) petty

b) biased

c) jealous

d) some combination of the above

Poll Maker

The simple facts are Mourinho wanted Matic at both Chelsea and Manchester United and Mourinho got Matic at both Chelsea and United, paying a combined £62 million to do so.

The midfielder's role in a 4-0 romp over West Ham in his Old Trafford debut demonstrated his worth on the pitch. There is also his worth in the clubhouse to consider. Neither were factors in Chelsea's decision to sell.

When a player demonstrates surpassing value on the pitch and in the clubhouse, he has the ingredients to one day become a club legend. At an elemental level, Matic was sold so that, as a potential club legend, he could become someone else's problem.

This is the fundamental difference between, on one side, supporters and pundits, and, on the other, modern corporate ownership. Supporters and pundits love them some club legend. Modern corporate ownership can do without the eventual headache.

Wayne Rooney and John Terry are the two most recent examples of club legends overstaying their welcome.

Terry had one resurgent run after Mourinho's return but otherwise became a bit part player in Chelsea's rotation. Yet, he wished to continue playing. Chelsea Technical Director Michael Emenalo could not sell a defender in his late 30s whose mind was more willing than his body. There were no takers. For Emenalo, it was like going upside-down on his car payments.
Similarly, David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, and Mourinho were stuck with a barely thirty-something Rooney whose wages far outstripped his productivity and limited his resale potential.

After a long, drawn out process, both players moved on free transfers. Matic, on the other hand, quickly brought a £40 million return on a net £17 million investment (if you accept the Telegraph's estimated £5 million valuation in the original Luiz deal).

With Rooney and Terry, United and Chelsea were caught in the middle for years. On one side, there were critics shouting that the pair needed to go while they still held some value. On the other, traditionalists argued that's not how you treat a club legend.

I think we can all agree corporate ownership is more concerned with the bottom line than how a single employee is treated. Unfortunately, public relations do affect the bottom line. Club executives must sometimes respect the paying customer's opinion even when it is detrimental to their profit margin. Supporter's groups with a powerful lobby fall into that category.

By selling Matic, Chelsea realised a healthy gain rather than a loss. It nipped a potential problem in the bud. Now, it can reinvest the sale's proceeds in new players should it wish, while freeing up a roster spot for a younger player. Most importantly, however, Emenalo can present Roman Abramovich with a more appealing balance sheet. In professional parlance, this is known as job security.
Jose Mourinho is less concerned with accounting. His job security demands he deliver a fourth Premier League title, first at United, in an expeditious manner. Cost is secondary. Right now, Nemanja Matic is no Wayne Rooney or John Terry. If he becomes one by helping his new old boss add to United's own legend, so be it. Mou will burn that bridge when he comes to it.
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin contributes frequently to Stretty News and is the author of the short story collection strange bOUnce. He has appeared in several other blogs which, sadly, have ceased to exist. He is old and likes to bring out defunct. Although football is his primary passion, the geezer enjoys many sports and pop culture forms. Expect them to intrude upon his meanderings for It's Round and It's White.

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